For several years now I’ve been writing about Ecosystem Gardening, but there seems to still be some confusion as to what I mean by this term. So let’s step back a bit and look at this a bit more closely.
Ecosystem Services in Your Garden
An ecosystem is all of the plants, insects, and wildlife (all of the living things) that interact with all of the physical non-living things (soil, water, air, sunlight) that together create the environment that produces the ecosystem services on which we as humans are totally dependent.
These ecosystem services include: purification of air and water, production of oxygen, preservation of soil, pollination, control of agricultural pests, provision of aesthetic beauty, and more.
Our gardens, when designed with biodiversity in mind, can contribute to these services, and protect native plants and wildlife which play a vital role in creating these necessary services.
Community Ecology and Your Garden
Ecosystem Gardening is much more than a collection of plants. It’s a community of plants, birds, pollinators, and other wildlife (including those in the soil, water, and air) that work together form a cohesive, balanced system.
And your healthy garden can contribute to the health of the environment around you.
In Ecosystem Gardening, attention is paid to the interaction between different plants and all the wildlife that feeds on or uses those plants.
Becoming a steward of your ecosystem
Gardening for wildlife and biodiversity, as with so many other choices, includes options along a continuum that are really bad for wildlife, to those that are better, to those that are the best possible choices for wildlife conservation and biodiversity. Every gardener will have to come to terms with where their choices fall along this continuum, but each of us has a duty to become responsible stewards of our own little piece of Mother Earth.
Simply stated, the more locally native plants you have in your garden, the more wildlife you will have. Am I saying that you can only have native plants in your garden? Absolutely not. I am saying that when we add more natives to the mix of plants in our gardens, we will attract more wildlife.
Personally, the entire reason that I garden is to create habitats for wildlife, and every choice that I make in my garden is made with the needs of wildlife as a top priority.
What is beautiful to me is not the individual “specimens” of plants scattered through a garden, but the birds, butterflies, bees, insects, frogs and toads, and other wildlife who make their home in gardens that I have created. These gardens are beautiful because they are full of life, and the plants are only a vehicle to that end.
The Power of Taking the First Step
However, I am fully aware that many gardeners are not yet ready to make that commitment, but I’ve been saying for years that if every one of us did just one positive thing for wildlife in our gardens, the cumulative effect would be enormous. Habitat loss is the number one cause of declining wildlife populations. With our zeal for constant development, we have simply left no place for wildlife to go. Each of us can make a difference by doing just one thing for wildlife.
So to that end, one native plant is good. Three of that same plant is better. A garden full of a wide variety of many different types of native plants that provide for wildlife year-round is best. That is what will help to preserve the biodiversity of each of our local regions. Each of us will choose at what level we will contribute to protecting against the loss of biodiversity in our gardens.
We must all realize that there are consequences to each choice that we make in our gardens, consequences that extend to our local area, our region, and even much wider than that. As we learn to stop doing the things that negatively impact our environment and to start making better choices for the environment, for wildlife, and preservation of biodiversity, we can contribute to a healthier place for all of us to live.