An organic cultivation gives up many agrochemicals and pesticides, which in traditional agriculture are used to "solve" various problems, often related to the presence of parasites and the onset of plant diseases.
Taking this step does not mean giving up on healthy vegetables, but simply change approach.
A organic garden to work well it must be resilient, that is, capable of facing problems with its own resources, managing to react to the unexpected. We can take natural ecosystems as a model to see how biodiversity is important for the health of our vegetables. In this article we will discover the importance of a diversified garden.
November 24, 1859, is an important date in the history of the natural sciences. A book of great impact for the human interpretation of nature was published. "The Origin of Species”By Charles Darwin was debated in his day, and still is today, it was not understood by many in his time and so it still is today.
In his theory, he argued that there is a kind of law that shapes the forms of life on this planet, expressed by that well-known and misunderstood term of "natural selection". To put it very simply: the most suitable organism at that time is chosen to carry on life in that particular environment. “This selection eliminates all that is not needed” one might think, but it isn't.
This selection takes place, and can happen, only and exclusively because it acts on a very large variety of different subjects. It is true that the most suitable is "favored", but it is "favored" momentarily, locally and in a non-exclusive manner most of the time. This because life has a huge need for diversity to evolve, that variety of elements on which to make the selection. Life itself has selected biodiversity to advance. Those who study genetics know how many ways organisms have to scramble their genome at the time of reproduction. Life has been able to use that randomness, given by the events that change things (e.g. the solar radiation that generates mutations) transforming it into an infinite creative resource. The intelligence of nature is boundless and will always manage to surprise us. But what lesson can we draw from this discourse?
Diversity is a wealth
Diversity is the only real wealth, this applies to almost all contexts and our garden is no exception. Biodiversity as we have seen means the ability to adapt, the ability to cope independently and to resist the unexpected!
We know that large-scale industrial agriculture does not follow these "natural" principles very much, luckily in our garden we have the opportunity to do a little what we want, not being tied to the logic of the market.
How to promote biodiversity in the vegetable garden
Here are some tips to promote biodiversity.
- Diversify crops: when we sow or transplant our vegetables we try not to make large plots with a single variety. This makes the vegetable easily attacked by parasites. It is possible to use the "consociations"Or those combinations of plants that go well together and help each other.
- Leave areas with spontaneous vegetation nearby the vegetable garden can be useful and will have multiple functions: it can enrich the soil with organic matter for the following years, it can attract pollinators and useful insects and, if you are lucky, it can produce food. Many "weeds" are often edible and nutritious, others have various useful properties.
- Plant flowers and plants that attract pollinators in this way you will be doing a good service to your garden and to the whole environment.
- Also take care of the soil, we have already discussed in other articles how important biological diversity is in the soil, both in terms of animals such as insects and earthworms, and in terms of microorganisms. From this point of view, it is necessary to interfere with the soil as little as possible, every time it is heavily plowed or synthetic chemical products are used, the biological balances in the soil are altered, these practices must therefore be limited to the bare minimum. Furthermore, we have already seen how in degraded soils it is possible to intervene with EM and mycorrhizae, we also remember that a good mature compost is an excellent source of living organisms for our soil.
- Use seeds that guarantee genetic diversity and reproducibility (F1 non-hybrids), this discourse is also broad and we have just dealt with it separately in two articles, what hybrid seeds are and what problems they bring to agriculture.
- Preserve life forms using organic fertilizers and treatments that do not reduce too much biodiversity. Exist pesticides that stimulate the plant's defenses and the ecosystem instead of acting directly on the parasite or in any case are products that do not harm the rest of the environment. Care must be taken here, in organic farming treatments such as pyrethrum (insecticide) and copper sulphate (fungicide) are allowed, which despite being organic have great impacts on biodiversity. We always invite you to nDon't just trust the label in this case.
- Think of spaces that are hospitable for insects and fauna. To accommodate small animals such as hedgehogs or great tits, an ecological hedge may be sufficient, we can also set up bugs hotels, bat boxes and insectivorous birdhouses.
Let's say that these practices can also be seen through their negative: not working the land, not extinguishing weeds and not using synthetic chemicals. Incidentally, these are among the principles of natural agriculture, also known as agriculture of non-doing. In fact, nature spontaneously generates the diversity we need.