Gardening and growing our own flowers, fruit and vegetables offer great benefits for us all, as well as for the environment, for people’s health and well being, for food security and for building stronger communities. If this is done organically it benefits the gardener, the ecosystem, and wildlife.
Maintaining a healthy soil
A healthy soil is the basis for growing healthy plants and healthy food. The soil is full of life – worms, fungi, bacteria and other microscopic creatures – which create its structure and fertility. When looking after your soil organically you will be improving the diversity and supporting the activity, of these vital creatures. You will be avoiding activities and inputs that disrupt and harm the soil ecosystem.
As much as possible cultivation should be limited to minimise disturbance of the soil structure and its layers. Digging or rotavation may be necessary when first taking on a garden or allotment, but after that it’s best to add organic matter and allow the soil fauna to take it into the soil, or only cultivate the top few centimetres to enable planting.
Bulky organic matter in the form of compost, leaf mould, well rotted shredded prunings or manure feed the soil and improve its structure. Natural plant materials such as comfrey or seaweed, can be used as fertilisers, and minerals may be needed in a garden where a deficiency is identified but feeding plants with chemical fertilizers encourages sappy growth that can be a target for pests and may pollute ground water.
Looking after the wildlife
An abundance of wildlife within your garden or allotment will create a natural ecosystem within which pests will be only one part, and are likely to be a food source for another animal.
Relaxed areas where there is long grass, leaf litter or piles of logs will allow beneficial insects and mammals, such as ground beetles, lacewings, ladybirds and hedgehogs somewhere to live and from which to forage. Make sure that you can identify those beneficial insects in all their life stages.
Mixing vegetables and flowers, companion planting,crop rotation and growing healthy plants will all help to reduce pests and diseases.