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What is Biodiversity?

Most people who have been through the Nature Cycle Market Garden will know we are big supporters of the natural networks at play through the garden. The Oxford Dictionary states Biodiversity as  “The variety of plant and animal life in the world or in a particular habitat”(3). We find it is a direct reflection of the overall health of a natural system and how it is functioning. This makes sense, in a very basic example: if a bird is reliant on a specific tree for habitat and nourishment and that tree species declines the overall population of the bird species will decline. This has a basic knock on effect and creates what is known as a positive feedback loop. This is where feedback into the system continues the trend. So the tree species who is also reliant on the bird for pollination and the spreading of seeds through the forest is no longer receiving that service and the tree species continues to decline which ensures the bird species continues to decline. A hawk that was reliant on that bird species for food now doesn't have the food source it needs, lower amounts of fledglings are born each season and it also begins to decline. A decline in resources for certain species creates a knock on effect throughout the overall system creating a positive feedback loop where the overall species decline.

 

As we can see, these systems are far more intricately engineered than we can fathom, with individual constituents providing the individual cogs required to power this great natural machine. For instance in one handful of temperate grassland soil, there will typically be found 100's of billions of bacterial cells from over 10,000 different species intermingling with 50km of fungal hyphae along with 100's of worms, ants and woodlice, and that's not including the other few thousand species hanging out(1). IN ONE HANDFUL OF SOIL!!!

Do NOT SPRAY, if you want Biodiversit-ay

Now that you are armed with this knowledge of biodiversity and its importance, you know that the practices you employ around the garden beds will either aid or detract from your sites overall health. So first off, don't use pesticides, fungicides or herbicides onsite. According to Business Dictionary, Pesticide is defined as a 'Chemical or biological substance designed to kill or retard the growth of pests that damage or interfere with the growth of crops, shrubs, trees, timber and other vegetation desired by humans'(2). We wanted our son to enjoy spending time within the garden beds not worrying about what carcinogenic compounds are building within the soil and plant material. In the Nature Cycle Market Garden we want the opposite of a human controlled system, I want to encourage the rapid growth of onsite biodiversity to ensure all organisms have a predator to keep it in check and the natural cycles are robust enough to care for the overall system. We are merely tending to the system and giving it a helping hand when it needs one.

3 tips for befriending bugs in the backyard and building biodiversity

  1. Employ a good bug mix: Employ a variety of flowers and herbs to deter pests and attract beneficial predators into the area. Many species of insect have symbiotically evolved with many species of plants to collect nectar/sap, to spread pollen, to spread genetic diversity and to ensure safe habitat. Due to this evolution many species of beneficial insects will not stay unless they have their select groupings of plants around. Additionally, the planting of various herbs release chemicals into the air confusing and deterring pests. In the Nature Cycle Market Garden we use a combination of Alyssum, Cosmos, Coriander, Clover, Sub-Clover, Calendula, Salvia, Cornflower, Dill, Chicory, Amaranth, Buckwheat, Nasturtium, Marigold, Mint, Oregano, Garlic Chives, Taragon, Parsley, Queen Annes Lace, Australian Wildflowers, Australian Native Trees (Wattles, Gums, Grevilleas, Callistemons), Yarrow, Sunflowers, Basil and Borage.
  2. Increase the overall biodiversity: By increasing the onsite biodiversity no one pest/predator/fungus/bacteria can take control as everything has something that eats it. In the Nature Cycle Market Garden we have maintained tall trees, added a bird bath and have specific plants producing copious amounts of seeds to attract a variety of birds. The good bug mixes attract a natural menagerie of predatory insects and the salads invite caterpillars, aphids and thrips. This is also occurring beneath the soil via the myriad of microbes, bacteria, worms, ants and fungi. Essentially we are laying the battle ground so the war of nature may take place. Chickens also free range the good bug mixes and seed producing plants as chickens specifically forage for seeds, keeping the spread of weeds to a minimum.
  3. Share with nature: The Earth's crust sustains all the life we currently know of. At the end of the day as Market Gardeners we understand we are growing as part of this collaboration of diversity for the needs of ourselves, our families and the needs of our communities. We are not here to meet the needs of global population or to meet specific import/export profit margins to ensure continued investor interest. Find it a nice compliment that many of the native and imported wildlife stop in for a bite, and by growing an assortment of plants, try to encourage them to get various sources of food instead of focusing on a particular item. In the Nature Cycle Market Garden we also brew our own micro-organism teas from the plants and fruits grown onsite, brew compost teas and add compost into the soils to constantly incorporate the various organisms and nutrients that are lost due to the processes of growing and incorporate worm farms to aid in the breakdown of organic matter.

To learn more about Market Gardening and how to set up your own Market Garden be sure to check out;

  1. Green Manures in the Market Garden
  2. Understanding Soils in the Market Garden
  3. Building Bio-intensive Market Gardens
  4. Composting in the Market Garden
  5. Bokashi Composting in the Market Garden

References

  1. Ciro Gardi and Simon Jeffery (2009), Soil Biodiversity, Office for Official Publications of the European Communities, Luxembourg.
  2. Pesticide. BusinessDictionary.com. WebFinance, Inc.<http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/pesticide.html>.
  3. Biodiversity. Oxford Dictionary, Oxford University Press, <https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/biodiversity>