Saturday, 26 September 2009

biodiverse vegetable gardening

Monoculture is the intensive production of a single species to the exclusion of all others. But large areas of one species are highly susceptible to pest or disease damage. Monoculture results in high yields but needs high inputs of pesticides, weedkillers and fertilisers - and excludes native wildlife.

Large areas of my native Nottinghamshire are intensively managed for high yields of wheat or barley and the consequence is that our common frog is common no more. There are large areas of Nottinghamshire where the frog is effectively extinct. This pattern of local extinction applies equally to birds, insects, plants and mammals.

But we gardeners should not get too high and mighty. Our own gardens and allotments are often nothing more than a series of monocultures: weed free beans, leeks, beetroot beds provide no places for wildlife.

There is much we can do. We try and mix insect-friendly flowers into our crops so that there is food for bees, hoverflies, wasps and butterflies.

Here, a bed of organic leeks (v. Musselburgh) is accompanied by self-sown borage and calendula in late September. Nectar loving insects will be able to build up their strength well into the autumn if we provide enough for them to eat.

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