When people see our garden, they often start asking me for gardening advice.
Unfortunately, these days, I rarely have any to give.
As a Forest Gardener and Permaculture enthusiast, I actually go out of my way to be a really bad gardener, and I try to encourage other people to do the same.
When I used to garden conventionally (organically, actually) I used to try my best to provide everything that the plants need. So I tried to keep up with the best science on how and when to water, what kind of fertilizer or compost to use, how and when to weed, how to manage pests and treat diseases and so on.
Now, I try to forget all of that!
Instead, I try to design gardens so that nature does all that work for me, the way it happens in natural ecosystems. Nobody ever weeds, waters, or fertilizes the forest, because the forest does all that work, or rather, the complex interactions between the various beings in the forest does it.
And to help my garden build the connections that will work well, I try to find ways to do as little “gardening” as I absolutely can.
But I do have some advice about that:
1. Build high-diversity gardens with lots of plant, fungi and insect species. Ecologists believe that high diversity builds highly resilient, healthy ecosystems with few pest and disease problems, and that includes our gardens.
2. Think of the health of the whole system. Make sure the garden harvests lots of water, sun and a variety of organic mulch materials to feed the soil.
3. Learn about Polycultures and use them. These maximize yield in both time (by partnering plants with different harvest times) and space (by partnering plants that use different root depths and nutrients.) They also confuse pests, privide predatory insect habitat and build that diversity.
4. Learn about Forest Gardening and Permaculture.