Indigenous Ecosystems in Your Garden

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Garden ecosystems

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Establishing a beautiful garden from scratch is a daunting task at the best of times. If you do it in the summer, the vegetation grows at a rate of knots, making it almost impossible to keep up with the weeds and the bugs taking up residence among seedlings.

If you do it in late autumn, or winter, the ground is hard and dry and the new plants find it extremely difficult to break through the ground, nevermind survive the harsh elements that greet them as they eventually pop their green heads above the soil.  

All this work tends to frustrate green-finger-wannabes. These conditions may fuel gardeners towards the hardier, fast-growing, self-sustaining trees, shrubs, flowers and other plants – after all, who has time to tinker in the garden every day for a good number of years?  

The problem is that these plants are often of alien origin. They are still terrestrial, but to the local ecosystem, these green invaders may as well be from outer space.

For those of us who have already established gardens, however, the fight against invaders seems equally as impossible. We may not have chosen to plant the invading species, but to eradicate it at this point would take a lot of sweaty labor, probably some blood and definitely some tears.

Is it worth all the effort to restore the natural balance? The answer is a resounding “yes.”

Here are five reasons why maintaining, or restoring, a balanced and original ecosystem is better for everyone:

1. Balance and Order

Sometimes it is not the most obvious part of a healthy garden, but a balanced ecosystem will ensure a thriving garden on all fronts. This does not mean green things neatly standing in a row to attention, but it does mean exquisite results as the garden grows, and grows well together.

Better quality flowers thrive in larger crops, healthier soil and more indigenous insects.

More insects? It may sound creepy, but more indigenous insects means a greater source of nutrition for the local birds and animals relying on our ecosystem.

Want great bird life in your garden? You need indigenous bugs; and lots of them. Better bird life benefits the plant life, too; and round and round the ecosystem goes.

2. Generational Gaps

“Do it for the children” may be an overused cliche, but it is still true. Environmental change begins with us but doesn’t end when we move on. A high standard of environmental protection now, and instilling these kinds of values in our children, matters.  

Every year brings new discoveries about nature’s mysteries. We are more equipped now to step up for nature than we were a century ago.

This progress will continue, especially when our children and grandchildren learn to value the natural world above commerce and convenience. It means Planet Earth may be around that much longer, as it replenishes itself more effectively.

3. Beauty

An area with completely indigenous vegetation is beautiful to behold. The plants and the creatures abide in harmony, living together in a dance of life, as natural and graceful as it was meant to be.

In a perfectly balanced ecosystem, there are no pesky alien creepers to take over the canopies, no fast-growing alien weeds choking up the soil with voracious root systems and no water-hogging alien plants emptying the water tables at the expense of every other growing thing in the area.

All plants will thrive and promote healthy relationships with its neighboring species. The plants will flower and produce better fruit, and the animals and insects belonging to the original ecosystem will flourish, taking advantage of the natural habitat available. Indigenous is beautiful.

4. Diversity

Biodiversity, specifically, is the variety of flora and fauna, and other forms of life, found in the ecosystem. Each area has a specific balance of elements supporting the spark and development of life. The more diverse the area, the more complex the systems in place.  

Introducing one foreign flower to the garden has the potential to upset the whole balance – the bees cross-pollinate, the birds spread the seeds, the neighboring indigenous plants suffer growth decline and, before you know it, the ecosystem has shifted into something different.

5. Rest

Gardeners and landscapers understand why rest is on this list. The pursuit of a sanctuary of green perfection is relentless; an exhausting grind of weeding, pruning, planting, watering and waiting.

An indigenous garden does not promise freedom from this cycle, but it will certainly decrease the load on both you and the environment into which it belongs. Indigenous choices now mean more moments to take it all in later.

An important aside here is to consider the claim of indigenous carefully before planting.  Sometimes it is country-specific, but it is worth looking into more area-specific information, too.  

Something that works in the south of the country may act like an alien invader in other ecosystems to the north.  It is also potting species you are unsure about, to avoid clogging up the precious local soil real estate with potentially hazardous fauna.  

Good luck!

  • Heather Lind

    Heather is a mother, teacher, writer, and newly-initiated farm girl in sunny South Africa. Her world travels have inspired the Travelinds blog and given her a new appreciation for how beautiful the world can truly be if we care for it.

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