Saturday, December 10, 2011

Towards Sustainability & Biodiversity on Farms & in Gardens

Biodiversity & sustainability has become popular. It is a good thing too as monoculture, non-sustainable farming/gardening is destroying life on our planet. How can you as a farmer or gardener become more bio-diverse and sustainable?

. What would You see on a bio-diverse & sustainable farm?
Happy animals, acting well adjusted for the most part. There is a variety of animals and variety of food for the animals to eat. The animals themselves help keep weeds and unwanted insects under control. Ducks are eating slugs, weeder geese can help in some row cropping situations. Goats can eat down noxious weeds like blackberries. Pigs can aerate barn compost. Chickens also help aerate barn compost and are great at eating fly larva. These are just a few examples.

Biodiversity means there are a variety of herbaceous plants, shrubs and trees,  including medicinal herbs. Bee boxes, teasel habitat for mason bees or bumble bee habitat or honey bee boxes etc., increase pollinators in the garden/farm. Bat boxes, owl boxes, raptor perches/boxes are all helpful to sustainable farms/gardens. Bats eat a lot of insects including mosquitoes while owls will keep those pesky varmint under control and raptors are helpful at keeping pesky fruit eating birds out of your berries.

Recycling the nutrients in the farm/garden is very important. Good composting practices are a foundation of a sustainable farm. What comes out of the animals (including the gardener/farmer are very beneficial & necessary to recycle to the soil/plants. Compost from feces and urine can grow  your veggies/trees. (I realize many balk at humanure, but consider it for your shade trees at least. Please read the book Humanure, 

before you make a decision to be disgusted by it. We are talking about well composted humanure, not fresh humanure which is unsafe to use. Our current method of throwing our human waste in the water is unsustainable.) 

Food is never wasted on a sustainable farm as there is a critter to eat any scraps or buggy fruit and what is not eaten goes to the compost pile. Everything is recycled as nature intends on a sustainable farm. 

By the way, sustainability breeds biodiversity and biodiversity breeds sustainability. They go hand in hand. So how do we increase our biodiversity on our farm or in  our garden/yard?

How You Can Increase Biodiversity/Sustainability 
Do not use or at least reduce use of insecticides.

Add plants for beneficial insects and pollinators.

Create wild areas, especially by creeks, rivers or ponds.

In-field or garden insectaries - This means putting beneficial insect plantings in the middle of your garden or field and not just on the edges of the fields.

Compost that ages slowly and naturally rather than constant turning - this enhances the biodiversity of the healthy organisms in the compost that are needed to build healthy soil. However compost the way that fits your situation best. Below are a few examples.
Composting in back yards with receptacles


Slow Composting & Fast Composting

Composting of humanure

Native bee habitat and nesting areas

Owl Habitat – put up owl boxes

Raptor habitat – put up perches and nest boxes

 These are just a few ways we can make our farms/gardens more diverse and sustainable. You can come up with many more ideas by thoughtful thinking or reading what other gardeners and farmers are doing.