Biodiversity in the garden refers to the variety of plant and animal species that live within the garden ecosystem. A diverse and thriving garden is like having a small ecosystem in your own backyard. To make the most of your garden’s natural potential, biodiversity is important because it creates a balanced environment. It is a key component of a regenerative garden. Although it may seem like a complicated concept, biodiversity is not at all difficult. You can easily promote biodiversity by planting a wide range of different plants.…
Results of Biodiversity in the Garden
Having a diverse range of plant species, such as flowers, vegetables, shrubs, trees, fruits, and weeds, is essential for maintaining biodiversity. Each type of plant offers unique advantages and functions, such as attracting various insects and pollinators, enriching the soil, and promoting a resilient garden. This variety encompasses native plants, fruit-bearing trees and shrubs, and even cover crops. The use of a variety of plants serves multiple purposes:
Different plant species provide various habitats for beneficial insects, birds, and other wildlife. This encourages biodiversity by offering shelter and breeding grounds. Tall shrubs and trees can offer different types of shelter and nesting for birds. Many birds are natural predators of garden pests, like caterpillars, aphids and beetles. Ground cover plants offer shelter for small animals and certain insects, like ladybugs, who eat aphids and other pests. Ground beetles are excellent at controlling slugs and snails.
It’s important to choose native plants as often as you can. Native plants have several benefits. They will be more sustainable, more resilient, and take less care, as they have evolved to thrive in your local climate. Whether you are cultivating trees, flowers or shrubs, remember that they don’t have to be in every corner of your vegetable garden, they just have to be nearby. Thinking of your entire yard as an ecosystem that all works together to support your garden will help you plan for biodiversity.
Variety of Food Sources
Plant diversity creates a variety of food sources, which serves to attract a number of different bugs, insects and animals. The more diversity you can fit into your growing space, the more robust your ecosystem will be. More life = more sustainability. Some examples:
- Plants with “umbel” flowers, (think flat-topped, upside umbrellas) attract particular insects, like Eastern Black Swallowtail, hoverflies, a number of different bees, or predatory wasps. Flowers like Queen Anne’s Lace, yarrow, (both native) or herbs left to flower, like dill, fennel, parsley, or cilantro are excellent examples. If your herbs bolt, no worries, these insects will be happy.
- Trumpet-shaped flowers, known for their elongated, tubular form, often contain nectar at the base, making them appealing to specific insects and birds. Petunias attract various bee species, such as bumblebees and solitary bees. Honeysuckle, a native plant, bee balm, and salvia are enticing to hummingbirds. Hummingbirds are excellent pollinators and, despite primarily consuming nectar, they also consume small insects and spiders. Many fruit-bearing plants, including certain berries and fruit trees, benefit from hummingbird pollination. A thriving hummingbird population can enhance fruit yields in your garden.
- Even weeds and wildflowers are an important part of the ecosystem you build. While some weeds can be invasive and harmful, others have ecological value. Allowing some wild areas in your garden or yard can create habitats for beneficial insects like predatory beetles, bees and other pollinators. Weeds with small, open flowers, like wild violets, which threaten to overrun my own yard, attract a variety of pollinators, including bees, butterflies and hoverflies. Incidentally, violets are also one of the first flowers to open in the spring, making them a welcome source of food. I’ve come to terms with them, as long as they don’t take over!
- Here are some types of flowers and plants that can help you create a garden that supports beneficial insects and animals: borage, coreopsis, coneflowers, daisies, milkweed (essential for monarch butterflies), lavender, phlox, marigolds, sunflowers, …The list goes on and on, so pick flowers that you love, and don’t forget the natives. Remember to plant a variety of these flowers that will provide nectar and pollen throughout the growing season, spring, summer, fall, and winter.
Variety of Microclimates
Microclimates are small variations form the overall climate of your area. They can be a result of natural aspects, like slopes and depressions, nearby water, buildings, wind exposure, or other features of your yard. You can intentionally create different microclimates in your yard to accommodate different plants. Think of this as diversity in design, as well as diversity in plants.
- Raised beds, containers, or cold frames can be placed strategically to create warmer soil temperatures in early spring, or to extend the growing season in the fall.
- Plants tall plants, like tomatoes or sunflowers, creates shade, where lettuce or spinach can be planted to avoid the heat.
- Organic mulches like wood chips can insulate soil and moderate temperature fluctuations.
- Plant heat-loving crops on south-facing slopes, shade-tolerant plants on north-facing slopes.
- Various hardscape materials, like concrete, stone, or gravel, have different abilities to absorb and release heat. The choice of materials for pathways, patios, or garden beds can affect the local temperature.
- Installing ponds, fountains, or small water bodies can moderate temperature and humidity in your yard.
Soil is not just a passive growing medium; it is a vibrant and life-sustaining natural resource, teeming with billions of bacteria, fungi, and other microorganisms. Soil health is one of the key elements of a regenerative garden.
One of the best ways to contribute to healthy soil is biodiversity in the garden. Diverse plant species contribute to improved soil health. When you grow a diverse range of plants, they extract different nutrients from the soil. This diversity promotes balanced nutrient cycling, as one plant may release certain nutrients into the soil through roots, while another plant with different nutrient requirements can utilize those nutrients. This reduces the risk of nutrient imbalances in the soil and enhances nutrient availability for all plants.
The roots of different plant species have different root structures and depths. Some plants have deep taproots, while others have shallow, fibrous roots. The presence of these various root types helps break up compacted soil, improve soil aeration, and enhance water infiltration. Subsequently, as roots decay and organic matter builds up, they create channels in the soil. These channels further improve soil structure, allowing roots to penetrate more easily and promoting beneficial microbial activity.
Additionally, this diversity supports a wide range of soil microorganisms, such as bacteria, fungi, and mycorrhizal fungi. Different microorganisms perform various functions, including breaking down organic matter, fixing nitrogen, and improving nutrient availability. Healthier soil produces healthier plants. Healthy plants are more resistant to diseases an pests.
Benefits of Biodiversity in the Garden
We all want higher yields, and preferably with less efforts on our part. Creating biodiversity in the garden will lead to higher yields through better pollination, natural pest control, better soil health, and an overall resilience in the garden. You can use and create microclimates for extended growing seasons. Using strategic planting techniques, like companion planting or intercropping, can produce higher yields.
Incorporating biodiversity into your garden design and practices can lead to a more resilient and productive garden. By encouraging a diverse ecosystem of plants and beneficial organisms, you can enjoy higher yields of healthy, nutritious, and flavorful produce, without a lot of effort. Over the seasons your gardens will get more resilient and more productive.
Reduction in Pesticide use:
Biodiversity in the garden creates ecosystems that support a wide range of natural predators, such as ladybugs, lacewings, parasitic wasps, and birds. As they help keep garden pests at bay, they reduce the need for chemicals. Creating a garden with a mix of flowers, shrubs, and trees can attract and support these beneficial insects, reducing the need for pesticides. When companion planting with a variety of herbs, they release natural compounds that repel or confuse pests, protecting your plants organically.
Monoculture, where a single crop is grown over large areas, can lead to explosive pest and disease outbreaks. Biodiversity encourages polyculture, where multiple crops are grown together. Polyculture can confuse pests, making it more challenging for them to locate their preferred host plants.
In general, biodiversity promotes a well-balanced ecosystem that can naturally control pests and diseases.. While complete elimination of pesticides may not always be possible, reducing their use through biodiversity-focused practices is not only environmentally friendly but also supports healthier and more sustainable gardens.
A More Adaptable Garden
Biodiversity in the garden increases its resilience to climate fluctuations. A diverse range of plants can better adapt to changing weather patterns. Consequently, this diversity ensures that if one species is particularly sensitive to a specific climate condition, other species may thrive. For example, during a hot and dry period, some plants with drought tolerance will continue to flourish, providing habitat for beneficial insects and maintaining ecosystem functions.
Biodiversity boosts a garden’s ability to adapt by increasing the likelihood of having species that are better suited to changing climate conditions. For example, some plants may be more tolerant to heat, resistant to drought, or hardy in cold temperatures compared to others. As climate conditions shift, certain species may become better suited to the new normal. In a diverse garden, these species are more likely to be present, helping the garden to adjust to the changing circumstances. This adaptability can involve modifying planting times, selecting plant varieties that are more resilient to climate, and experimenting with different species to determine which ones thrive best in the evolving climate.
Biodiversity in the garden can also make it more visually appealing. A mix of colors, textures, layers, and forms creates a vibrant garden that is enjoyable. Biodiverse gardens often include plants with varying bloom times and seasonal interest. This means there’s something new to see throughout the year, from the first spring blossoms to the rich colors of autumn foliage.
The wildlife that diversity attracts is also appealing. Who isn’t fascinated by the flight of a hummingbird, or the majestic folding and unfolding of the monarch butterfly’s wings. Let’s not forget the appeal of various fragrances. Flowers, herbs and aromatic foliage make a wonderful sensory experience.
Nonetheless, beauty of the garden is often something we forget when we focus only on production. But when you consider all of the benefits you get from a biodiverse ecosystem, better production is the result, and you get enhanced beauty as “icing on the cake”. Best of all for your garden, if you create more beauty, you’ll want to be there, enjoying it. The best thing for a garden is the gardener!
Conclusion: Biodiversity is A Garden Party
Mother Nature knows what she is doing and it’s worthwhile to take note and mimic her design. A biodiverse garden not only dazzles the eye with its array of colors and textures but also fosters a thriving ecosystem where life flourishes. From better pollination and natural pest control to improved soil health and climate resilience, biodiversity in the garden is the secret ingredient that transforms a garden into a dynamic place where life thrives. It’s like a garden party where everyone’s invited!