Blog post

Why You Should Garden Organically

March 04, 2010 21:44


Most gardeners divide the animals in their garden into two basic categories.

First there are the pretty, fluffy and furry ones that we like to encourage: birds, butterflies, bees and mammals such as foxes and hedgehogs. The second group is basically anything which eats our plants: caterpillars, aphids, slugs and snails etc.

We do what we can to encourage the former, even leaving out food and building shelters for them. We reach for our chemical arsenal to destroy the latter. But here's the rub: most of the good guys couldn't even exist without the bad guys. Birds eat aphids; foxes and hedgehogs consume the slugs and snails; and I hope I don't need to explain the connection between caterpillars and butterflies.

The simple fact is that the best way to get a healthy number of the nice guys in your garden is to learn to turn a blind eye to a few holes in your leaves. Realise that every little bit of damage is helping a bird or fox to thrive.

Of course, there are certain plants which will be decimated by the bad guys. For instance, if I plant marigolds or dahlias they will disappear overnight due to the number of slugs and snails in my well-shaded garden. My solution is simply not to grow such plants. Learn to experiment to find what will grow successfully for you, and if it fails, remember that there are hundreds, if not thousands, of other plants which you could grow in their place.

But you want to be careful about growing insect resistant plants: there are many plants which come from foreign parts of the world and which no native insect will touch. These plants may well stay healthy, but they are not doing any good for the wildlife we are trying to encourage. Try and grow a selection of native plants and these will provide a habitat for native wildlife. I'm not saying that everything you plant has to be native or plant food. You need to aim for balance between the plants which you share with nature and those which are purely for you to enjoy.

Plants which produce nectar for bees and butterflies are another group of plants which are great for a wildlife garden. They also have the benefit that they usually give an impressive display of flower colour. When selecting nectar plants again you can go for native species, but there is also a wide selection of non-natives which are great nectar providers.

When searching for nectar plants it's best to avoid plants which have been highly selectively bred, especially those bred for flower size. Roses and dahlias may be beautiful garden plants but their breeding means they put all their energies into flower production and not into making nectar.

Above all, remember that we, as humans, are merely another part of nature. We need to learn to live in harmony with it and not try and hold our gardens to the same standards of neatness and cleanliness we hold our houses to. Learn to enjoy a bit of naturalised clutter in your garden and the local wildlife will greatly thank you for it.


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