The Ground Rules :
- Respect the web of life
An ecosystem is made up of all the living animals and plants and the non-living matter in a particular place, like a forest or lake. All the living things in an ecosystem depend on all the other things – living and non-living for continued survival – for food supplies and other needs.
In some ways, the actions and reaction that take place within an ecosystem are like a spider web – when one strand is broken, the web starts to unravel. What affects one part of an ecosystem, affects the whole in some way.
The idea of the web of life is shown by the interdependence within an ecosystem. Animals and plants depend on a complex system of food for survival. In a typical grassland ecosystem, the web might work like this: The sun provides energy for the grass; grasshoppers feed on the grass; birds and frogs eat the grasshoppers; snakes eat birds, frogs and mice; owls and hawks will eat the birds as well as snakes, frogs and mice. When an animal dies, it is decomposed by worms, fungi and bacteria action and nutrients are released to the soil during the decaying process for the grass to use again. Connecting the many plants and animals with lines representing their functions and food chains within this web would create a tangled maze. It is obvious that all forms of life in the ecosystem are dependent on all other living and non-living things for food, nutrients and energy.
- Saving seed
When you save seed from the best-performing plants grown on your own land and with your unique cultural conditions, you gradually develop varieties that are better adapted to your soil, climate and growing practices. Among the vegetable seeds most easily saved are non-hybrid tomato, pepper, beans, eggplant, cucumbers, summer squash, and watermelons. Collect seeds from the fully mature, ripe fruit of these plants.
All commercially produced seed will contain poison residues. By law these seeds have to be treated.
Some people like to grow heirloom varieties because doing so gives them a connection to our garden heritage. Others choose non-hybrid seeds because they don’t want to support the industrial agriculture system that increasingly controls our food supply. Plus, some older, open-pollinated varieties produce more nutritious crops than do modern hybrids bred mostly for high yields and long shelf life.
- Compost and plant food
Home composting in the form of Bokashi and worm farms are ideal, as they reduce and recycle raw kitchen waste. They are, simply put, the best fertilizer you can use.
Comfrey can be turned into the most nutritious and plant food.
- Good growing techniques
- Ensure that the soil is well prepared with compost. Good conditioning of the soil will ensure your plants grow well.
- Germinate seed when it is New Moon. When the moon is waxing as it makes the sap rise,
- When planting seedlings, ensure that the plant is firmed down well in the soil. The roots should not have air-pockets around them.
- Dedicate a portion of your crop to nature.
- Ensure that your plants never dry out. A plant that has undergone stress will send out signals to predators, who will in turn devour them. It will also hinder the growth of the plant and reduce yields.
- Place ground eggshells around your plants, this will act as a foil to slugs and snails. NB. Never squash a snail. The snail is a hermaphrodite and self fertilizes and shoots out 1000 s of eggs as a self-preservation technique.
- Plant companion plants around your seedlings.
- Mulch the beds, especially in the Summer. Mulch should already be decomposed. Avoid using bark and straw as it draws the nitrogen from the soil.
- Encourage wild life into the garden
Birds such as Thrushes, Robins, Raptors are your best friends in the garden. In fact the more variety of birds, the better your garden will be.
Entice the birds by putting out food and water feeders.
Never disturb their nests.
DO NOT kill insects, as they provide food for the birds.