Why Ecological Gardening?


I am new at this, so there will not be a lot of expert material here, just our experience as we go along.  I have been reading extensively about permaculture, natural gardening, and forest gardening.  Check out the Booklist for recommendations.  I may write a synopsis of some of it when I have the time, but for now, I will just describe what we are doing to work in that direction and some of the reasons why we are taking a particular step.

First, why ecological gardening?  Our main reason for wanting to grow an edible garden is to provide most of our own vegetables and fruits, which would be raised organically, under our control, so we know exactly what we're getting.  In the long run, we may even save some money, but maybe not if we count in all we've spent before going this route.  Also, being a little more self-sufficient is a good feeling, providing a measure of security and a lot of satisfaction.  

In order to really do it well, one must feed the soil.  In order to do that, one must encourage the whole web of life that has been designed to feed the soil, and plants and animals and humans, naturally.  That means not using chemicals, which quickly kill soil life and render the soil a dead medium, in which we are basically practicing chemical hydroponics, using the soil only to hold plants up, but not to actually feed them.  This also puts us on a treadmill of chemical pest control, a battle which we are doomed to lose.  Inescts and aimals that are beneficial to the plants are driven away for lack of food and habitat.  And we have to cart in store-bought fertilizers and mulches in an endless stream if we hope to get anything back from the denuded ground.  

Even organic gardening suffers much in this last regard.  Bringing in everything we need constantly from the outside, even if we don't pay for it (which is rare indeed), and even if it contains no artificial chemicals, is not sustainable.  If nothing else, we are burning a lot of fossil fuels and creating pollution just getting the stuff to our gardens.  Not to mention the work involved.

From a purely practical standpoint, not just organic, but ecological gardening is the only way to go.  You can build your soil life and bring in animals and insects and plants that will create an enclosed cycle where everything feeds everything else and you no longer need outside inputs.  Your garden can be self-perpetuating, self-sustaining, if you include the right elements in the right relationships.  You don't even have to buy and raise the soil organisms, animals and insects - plant an ecological garden, and they will come.

The nice thing about ecological gardening, aside from benefits such as knowing you are improving rather than degrading the small patch of earth which you currently control, and the ability to eat some from your land, and the pleasure of watching small animals cavort on it, is that it reduces your work load as a gardener.  This is probably the second most practical reason for doing it.  You set up the right environment, and nature will pick up from there and do the lion's share.

So much for the motivations.  On to the principles!



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