Gardening with nature

Gardening with nature
Jacqui van Heerden

Gardens, full of trees and plants, offer us a perfect opportunity to reconnect to our true selves and remember our place in the natural world.

Each garden bears the unique impression of its creator. The many home gardens cared for around the globe play an important role in creating biodiversity, maintaining soil health, absorbing water, and sinking carbon.   

By using the principles of Sensitive Permaculture (by Alana Moore) and working with nature we can create gardens that require less energy input and upkeep and are more harmonious for all who inhabit them. Permaculture gardens leverage natural processes to regenerate the ecology of a site.

People can get frustrated when establishing a garden as sometimes their vision or dreams for a garden may not be able to be met by the site or location. A good first step is to understand your site and your available time to care for your garden – know the limits.

To get to know your site spend some time looking at it with attentive eyes – what climate zone are you in? What is your soil like? Is it sandy, clay or soggy? What spots receives winter and summer sun?

The sun has a lower arc in the sky in winter than in summer so while some parts of your site may receive summer sun, in winter they may not.

Is there shading from neighbours and/or trees? Where do things grow well? Most plants need several hours of sunlight a day and good soil to grow in so these two factors are important.

Always work with what is there. If you have soggy soil instead of draining it and establishing swales, you may rather plant plants that don’t mind “soggy feet”. Educate yourself about your soil and apply compost regularly to feed the soil life, which plays a critical role in breaking down and distributing nutrients (seriously … read up about soil. It’s incredible and necessary).

To help with tracking all this I advise a mud map. Spending some time doing this will prevent losses, frustration, and waste – simple mistakes like planting a plant in the wrong place can cause unnecessary heartaches.

Knowing about the plants that you love; what you want to eat, and their growing conditions will help you place plants in the best spot. Also check the mature height and width of a plant – avoid the mistake of planting plants too close to each other, which stresses them as they then compete and get shaded out.

Know which plants go well together (known as companion planting), especially vegetables, and planting them together will boost their health.

Planting by nature’s cycles of seasons and the moon, delivers great results.

The more we learn from nature and attune our gardens to her we will keep pests at bay, spend more time enjoying our gardens rather than maintaining them, which ensures they continue to contribute to the health of the planet. •

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