The Vegetable Garden

Organic Gardening and Permaculture - page 4

My goal is to slow down the car and then get it to do a U-turn.  I want to keep the nutrients within my property where I can capitalise on them.  By doing this, I am able to use the nutrients again, so I don’t have to buy them for a second time.  In effect, I am creating a system that is self-sustainable.  Composting is a vehicle in which we are able to create a nutrient cycle within our property.  We are part of that cycle because we consume the nutrients when they are, for a brief time, in a useful form.  Then they return to the compost and slowly make their way into another useful form where we consume them again.  This cycle can go on and on indefinitely.

Throw away the hoe
Natural ecosystems don’t require gardeners with shovels and hoes to come along every season to turn their soil, and neither does an ecological garden.  However, it is best not to walk on the garden beds as this will cause unnecessary compaction.  Of course, this requires the installation of permanent pathways that are positioned in a way that the gardener can obtain access to the plot.

Digging soil upsets the soil structure which, in turn, reduces the soil’s ability to pass on valuable nutrients to plants.  The loss of soil structure also reduces the soil’s ability to hold water.  Developing good soil structure is actually the best water conserving technique I know, and when practiced in conjunction with a dense planting arrangement creates a holistic soil ecology management plan.  A dense planting arrangement will shade the soils surface, stopping surface crusting which causes runoff and nutrient depletion.  Developing good deeper structure will allow soil organisms to do what they do best – turn organic matter into available plant nutrients.

Self Seeding
If you are lucky enough to visit a pristine rainforest you will probably be awestruck by the towering canopy.  However, the future of the rainforest lies in the soil in the form of seeds – tiny cells of life waiting for their opportunity to prosper.  If we are going to create an ecological garden then we have to make sure it too, has a future.  By allowing some plants to go to seed, we can build up seed stores, just like the rainforest.  And like the rainforest, we should aim to have thousands of seeds of many varieties spread right across our plot.  Most of these seeds will never germinate because in the ecological garden the niche spaces are so tightly filled that opportunities for new life are limited.  However, eventually a plant will be eaten and an empty niche space will appear.  If we have thousands of seeds lying dormant, the chances of the niche space being filled with something desirable are pretty good.