Grow Your Own: Establishing Your Ecosystem

by Juan Jardinero

“…the care of the earth is our most ancient and most worthy and, after all, our most pleasing responsibility. To cherish what remains of it, and to foster its renewal, is our only legitimate hope.”

? Wendell Berry.
The control of harmful pests can be a real challenge for any gardener who is trying to grow food organically. When we make that decision to grow food that will nurture our body and replenish the earth, we will inevitably have to face pests. Within the spectrum of organic forms of pest controls one can find a wide variety of options. You can find synthesized organic sprays or you can make your own chilly, garlic, onion concoction, which, with regular use, may control any invasion of unwelcomed bugs. However, it takes time, money, effort and energy to use these pest control measures. And with time some of them may proof ineffective as these pests become more resistant.  The permaculture approach, however, is to encourage a living ecosystem.

In a garden, a living ecosystem requires a thoughtful design that favors variety and attempts to mimic nature, unlike conventional agriculture. Mother Nature herself, has for hundreds of millions of years grown every plant in existence, thriving without human intervention, without any inputs of energy other than those supplied by natural systems — so the idea is to copycat that model.

We tend to think of nature as something we must fight, conquer and control. But if we favor diversity we can obtain a self-regulating ecosystem that requires little management.

Establishing a food forest requires experimenting with design over time. But once established the natural pest controls kick in by themselves. Soon the whole garden will be swarming with ladybugs, predatory wasps, hoverflies, praying mantises, lacewings and all manner of beneficial insects. The pests then will start to disappear. Plenty of perennial plants ensures that there will be a permanent home for the beneficial insects, and an abundance of the right kind of flowers ensures that the good bugs will have an alternative food source to keep them alive after they have eated all the bad bugs. Pests don’t attack healthy plants (most of the time!). Plants have evolved their own defense mechanisms against pests and diseases over the eons, and when plants are growing in the right place, with the right amount of light, water and nutrients, they grow strong and healthy.

The process to create this type of ecosystem will benefit from a true understanding of your plants needs in terms of light, water, position in the garden, quality of your soil and moisture. This does not come easily, for it is out of sheer lack of patience that many people don’t succeed in creating natural ecosystems. But as gardeners we must practice observation and learn the needs of our garden and likely with time we will have created a self-seeding, self-regulating food forest.

If you’re in Xela and wish to come out and help us create our food forest, contact us at juanpa@elinfinito.org or call 30147604 for garden volunteer opportunities every Saturday and Sunday.

 

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