Food & Garden: The importance of garden self-sustainability

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By Andrew Padula, Contributing Columnist and owner of Greer-based Padula's Plants:

Stepping into your self-sustainable garden to stand and listen will oftentimes bring on the constant conversation nature is trying to have with you.

Although a healthy garden is alive with movements and sounds, it often times takes a surrounding silence around you in order for you to hear these many different sounds on their many different levels. The subtle movements of both plants and animals in your healthy garden is a constant reminder of the life around you and the energy it is giving off. This energy in your garden is detected easiest by what you see, combined with the sounds that you hear and the scents in the air.

Animals in nature here in the Upstate like hummingbirds, honeybees, hoverflies, dragonflies, stone centipedes, Asassin bugs, predatory birds, praying mantis, toads, frogs, predatory beetles, wolf spiders, green lynx spiders, butterflies, moths, songbirds, bumblebees, bats, lizards, and earthworms, are just a few of the common beneficial inhabitants that you may see or hear in a healthy garden in our area. If these animals are in your garden, then they are communicating the same basic message between themselves that they are to you. A message that says you have allowed the power of nature into your garden and a beneficial balance on at least one level in your garden has been reached or it is close to being reached.

In order to maintain this balance/harmony in your garden once it has arrived, chemicals/poisons must be left out of it on a permanent basis. Weeding also needs to be done on a regular basis to keep out and deter some unwanted animals that nature also invites in such as, ticks, mice, rats, snakes, grasshoppers, or rabbits. These unwanted animals can usually be seen easier than they can be heard in your garden. So limiting areas of dense weeds and tall grass in your garden will give these unwanted animals less places to hide, feed, or make their home, and keep them in the more wild areas of Nature.

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When you decide to allow nature into your garden, it usually comes in gradually at first but then just keeps on coming to the point of seeming overwhelming at times. Nature's mission into your garden is to become more interwoven over time until it and your garden are one in the same. So by slowly allowing nature into your garden, you can learn at your own pace what beneficial connections to keep in your garden once they arrive and which negative connections to keep out. This can help you more easily maintain a healthy/self-sustainable garden.

It is important to know the name of the plant or animal that you are looking at in your garden. Consider what impact it's arrival into your garden will have on other harmonic/coexisting life currently in your garden, and what it's arrival is connected to in your garden. Then decide if this plant or animal is good or bad for you and the overall health/self-sustainability of your garden. These are just a few examples of the nature-based decisions that you can make to help you solve problems in your garden or to help you gain knowledge about how the many different kinds of life in your garden interact together.

Being quiet and still in your garden to watch it's interconnected interactions will lead you to your goal of a healthy and chemical free self-sustainable garden/landscape. Since much of the communication your garden is sending your way can only be heard by you in the silence of Nature, it is important to copy those conditions while you are learning about your garden. Once you respect the silence of nature and realize that by becoming one with it in your garden, your garden will become full of interesting sights and sounds very quickly. Making it an unspoken two way conversation between you and your garden.

How your plants communicate with you is mainly through what they can show you through their times of stress and through their natural beauty when they are content. Along with different scents they can enlighten you with, a deeper and more direct form of communication between you and your herbal garden plants takes place when you decide to use their seemingly endless internal or external benefits they offer to you in order to help improve your well-being or the wellbeing of those around you. When you look at the plants around you, regardless of the species, it took around 400 million years to get to the point these species are at now. They all have their own highly specialized functions and deep connections to other life, when it comes to helping hold a sustainable nature together.

Plant, in a relatively short amount of time when compared to the length of time they have lived on Earth, have even formed many deep connections with us. Everything from helping to create the air we breath to the receptor sites in our minds. As we evolved around plants, we became dependent on them for shelter, the food we eat, medicine, art/inventions, and survival.

Because of this deep connection that we all have with plants, it only makes sense that the level of understanding between you and your garden has the potential to be just as deep with nature involved. By understanding your garden's many different signals, but also remembering that nature is always on the move and therefore always changing. A self-sustainable garden is also always on the move and always changing, which can make the endless mix of signals that your garden sends your way confusing at times. But this confusion fades and your garden’s many signals to you become easier to translate the more time that you spend outdoors and in your garden. It takes time to notice how everything in nature connects to something else within nature on a sustainable level.

Once you see these beneficial connections/interactions in a healthy and wild ecosystem where nature rules, you will know what to look out for and enhance in your own garden/landscape.

Learn more about Andrew Padula and Padula's Plants here or find them on Facebook here.

(Image attribution.)