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Biodiverse Gardens

Written by : Ailee Arias

Hey folxs, with all this spare time we have it’s a great idea to invest some of it into your own garden space! This can look so different depending on what your circumstances are and budget. Either way, from planting in pots or garden boxes or even using the soil in your front or back yard, your garden plants will thrive if the right friends are there for them ! Everybody needs support from their friends and family during these dire times, plants work just the same.


So, whether you're just starting off and trying to get some visions of what to plant, or you're locked and loaded to get your garden planned and set ; you have come to the right place ༼⌐■ل͜■༽


This blog will be organized by :

  1. The importance of biodiverse gardens

  2. How this can be created --> Companion Planting ⊂( ・ ̫・)⊃

  3. Examples of popular friends and foes of gardens

  4. Charts of crops’ friends and foes

  5. Resources I compiled for this word dump :-)


Disclaimer : I encourage you all to do your own thorough research before planting anything, so success and happiness can be ensured ! Thorough research includes understanding what your specific plants’ needs are, how your environment may affect them, and their relationships with other plants. Other than that


Let’s get crack-a-lackin


1. B I O D I V E R S E G a r d e n s !

Diverse gardens are not only a beauty to see and smell, but create a beneficial ecosystem that will let your crops thrive in. And that is quite precious and beautiful enough to witness. The most precious part is the way these plants work with one another to allure pollinators and repel pesky pests for each other, and create bountiful harvest. The beauty in these types of gardens is seeing a community of pollinators from bees, hummingbirds, butterflies, and more that will sustain your garden. This community also includes an array of beneficial insects (aka predatory insects) like ladybugs, praying mantises, predatory beetles, and friendly spiders. These insects will keep the repulsive pest like aphids, hornworms, cutworms, nematodes, cabbage moths, and more from munching on your precious crops.


This is primarily done by having an array of herbs, flowers, and certain vegetables (alliums) to keep pests away and beneficial organisms in. Strong scents protruded by these types of plants is the key point to a successful garden. The flowers and herbs will lure pollinators for nectar and pollen, and the alliums will confuse pest directions of how to access your precious goods. It is also about strategic planning about where to place the alliums and flowers in your garden, so they do not harm certain crops' productivity.



2. HOW TO CREATE THIS → C O M P A N I O N P L A N T I N G !

So what exactly is this ?

Companion planting is the use of different crops in proximity for a number of reasons like pest control, pollination, habitat for beneficial insects, maximizing use of space, and increasing crop productivity.


Though plants demand a lot to ensure productive yields like rich soil, adequate sun, and a plentiful supply of water ; they do even better with the help of their besties and their foes out of sight or range. By growing certain plants together they will improve each other’s health and yields. This happens for a number of reasons from pest control, pollination, and more availability of nutrients in the soil.


Many plants (like legumes) are able to fixate nitrogen in the soil, meaning that the roots make the most essential nutrient available to themselves and others. These types of plants are known as cover crops, and are known to grow among or before your crops are planted. They are then cut down and chopped up, and scattered around the beds to work as a natural fertilizer. Other plants are also known to change the biochemistry of the soil, by making certain nutrients more available in the topsoil or altering its chemical form to be more suitable for plants’ roots to uptake.


Granted this requires extensive research about what plants will suit your garden, who may be their friends and foes, and how exactly to maximize your garden space;

Here are some basics to keep in mind :

1. Shade Regulation :

Tall and large plants provide shade for smaller plants that are in need of sun protection. Of course this is super dependent on the location of your garden, and how much sun is being received there. It is also dependent on the plants you intend to have and if they can tolerate sun or need shade protection. I encourage research on your individual plants and this helpful website to know how much sun is being received in your space (Suncalc).

2. Herbs and Flowers :

The main takeaway here is use your FLOWER POWER ! (。✿‿✿。) These bbs take the duality cake for being the natural repellents of pests and the attractors of beneficial insects. Herbs’ and flowers' strong fragrances (like lavender & marigolds) confuse pests' direction of locating those leafy greens and fruits ! At the same token, these strong scents allure pollinators and other helpful insects to sustain your garden.


I also highly recommend understanding what your native flowers and herbs are for your area, because they will do effectively better if they are endemic to the region. Furthermore, they are needed by the local pollinators and will be easily recognisable by them. There is a popular culture of planting ornamentals, exotic, and essentially non-native plants in gardens nowadays. It is imperative to re-establish the native flora, and to avoid non-native invasive species.


3. Cover Crops and Others Make Great Soil :

Crops like beans, peas, clovers, and vetches are from the legume (fabaceae) family, and are known for their variation of uses. Primarily for human consumption, animal feed, and soil enhancing green manure. These plants are fantastic at harvesting nitrogen in the air of soil, and supplying itself and neighbors with this vital nutrient. Mainly because nitrogen is crucial for the development of chlorophyll and amino acids, the essential building blocks of happy and healthy plants.


Similarly, plants with long taproots (like burdock & carrots) help bring nutrients from deep in the soil up to the topsoil to benefit shallow-rooted plants.


4. Weed Suppressors :

Nobody likes weeds finding their way in your garden, because then they start using up nutrients you want your crops to be taking up ! So by planting sprawling crops like potatoes and squash (along with upright plants), they will minimize open areas where stragglers can take hold.


I present to you : The THREE SISTERS

This dynamic trio consists of corn, beans, and squash.


A number of indigenous communities (like the Iroquois) had been growing the “three sisters” for over three centuries, before the Europeans had arrived in the 1600s. They interplanted this trio because they thrived together, and sustained their people physically and spiritually. In legends the plants were a gift from the gods, always to be grown together, eaten together, and celebrated together.


These three sisters are a classic example of companion planting at it’s best ! Together they symbiotically deter weeds, repel pests, enrich the soil, and support one another. Each of the sisters contribute something to one another and provide a balanced diet from a single planting !


  • The tall corn stalks offer the climbing beans necessary support

  • The pole beans (aka the giving sister) pull nitrogen from the air and bring into the soil for the benefit of all three

  • The large leaves of the sprawling squash protect the trio by creating a live mulch that shades the soil and occupies space to prevent weeds

  • The prickly squash leaves also keep scavengers and other pests from them all


Furthermore, the plantings of this dynamic trio is not traditionally done in single rows of individual crops. Though there are variations of this method, the idea is to plant the sisters in clusters on low wide mounds.

  • Check out this site if you would like more info and how to do this in your own space! :-)


Specifically the seeds include :

  1. Pole beans (not bush beans!)

  2. Corn like sweet corn, dent corn, or popcorn

  3. Small leafed squash such as zucchini (aka summer squash) or hubbard (winter squash)


Basic Besties and FOes

Though it depends on what you plan to have in your garden, growing certain plants alongside each other will splurge benefits of their complementary characteristics like nutrient requirements, growth habits, and pest repelling abilities.


It is important to note to be aware of what your plants need in nutrients so they aren't competing for resources, so be sure to do your own research as well !


However here are some beauties that do well in almost all gardens :


Flowers


Marigolds

A cheery annual that will repel nematodes, notoriously attacking vegetable roots, especially tomatoes. They also attract insects like ladybugs, hoverflies, and mini wasps that prey on garden pests.


Nasturtiums

These bright perennials are known to have many benefits from nutritional value to repellants of many pests. Such pests like whiteflies, squash bugs, cabbage loopers, and more. However they are also known to be a “trap plant” for aphids, alluring these pests to these flowers as opposed to your valued crops. They also attract pollinators like bumblebees, butterflies, and nectar eating birds.


Zinnias

These colorful beauties attract pollinators from bees, hummingbirds, wasps, and ladybugs. They are also known to lure predatory bugs like japanese beetles that will eat garden pests.


Hollyhocks

These tall towering flowers have many medicinal properties and attract pollinators from bees, hummingbirds, and butterflies. Though a short-lived perennial they often reseed themselves.


Cosmos

These dainty and showy annual flowers attract many pollinators (from bees and butterflies) and beneficial insects ( from hoverflies and other predatory insects). The petals are also edible (if you use no chemicals) and will self seed themselves easily!


Herbs


Lavender

Aside from the bountiful medicinal purposes these purple gems provide, they also repel moths, flies, mosquitoes, and flies. Their strong peaceful fragrance also lures many pollinators.


They are commonly known to be used for aromatherapy, because the smells of the oils promote calmness and wellness. Many sources also claim the fragrance helps reduce stress, anxiety, and possibly even mild pain.


Rosemary

Similarly, this herb packs a punch in medicinal properties like being rich in antioxidants, and is known to be a cognitive stimulant for memory and attention. It is also fantastic at repelling pests like flies, fleas, mosquitoes, cabbage moths and more. Also on the note of cabbage moths, they are known to be detrimental to many crops like broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, turnip, and radish.


Mint

There is a caution with this beneficial and tenacious plant, because they spread far and wide. Therefore, it’s worth looking into how you intend to incorporate these invasive plants into your garden. They can be behaved by harvesting and with already established herbs like rosemary, sage, oregano, and thyme.


Mint holds high up to their reputation by their high nutritional value and mighty pest control. They are high in fiber and vitamin A, and are also known to relax muscles and soothe digestion.


As for in the garden, they attract beneficial insects like bees and hoverflies and more. They also repel houseflies, cabbage moths, ants, aphids, squash bugs, fleas, mosquitos, and (final breath) mice.


Sage

This iconic herb is know for the numerous health benefits such as :

  • Headache and sore throat pain

  • Reducing oxidative stress in the body

  • Protecting against free radical damage

  • Reducing inflammation

  • Protecting against bacterial and viral infections

  • Supporting digestion

  • Protecting against memory loss

  • Reducing depression or improving mood

They are also prolific growers and may grow fast depending on the environment. They also attract pollinators and repel just as many as rosemary, including flies, fleas, cabbage moths, and snails.


Catnip

Happy gardens make happy cats right ? I mean not only will your cat be enthused but it's great for the garden. It has some medicinal properties like improving relaxation, and may boost mood by reducing anxiety.


It’s also ten 10x effective at repelling pests like mosquitos than most commercial insect repellants (DEET specifically ;0) It is known to repel mosquitos, roaches, ants, flies, and mice.


It is also recommended to grow with Hyssop because they benefit each other, and compliment each other beautifully.

They are known to grow quickly, but they grow cooperatively with beets, pumpkins and squash. However if they ever become uncontained, one can remove the flowers before they seed.


A L L i u m s !

The generic name Allium is the Latin word for garlic. These types of plants refer to the cultivated onion, garlic, scallion, shallot, leek, and chives. Their strong scents make them helpful pest managers as well, and can be planted in little pockets around the garden. It is important to note, not to plant alliums with other alliums.


They do very well and promote health for many plants, and even enhance flavor for certain plants. I recommend this site to get all the specifics on these angels.


4. Charts of popular crops’ friends and foes


5. Resources : websites, other blogs, and videos !

Thanks so much for reading through this and getting this far ! I hope this was helpful to begin your endeavors to companion planting, and vision the beauty and productivity your space may hold. As always, I encourage folks to stay curious and research your plants’ needs from nutrition, habitat, soil conditions, and suitable temperatures.


Here are the major websites I used to compile all of this information !


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