Gardening for Biodiversity

| 8/26/2013 3:15:00 PM

Tags: permaculture, biodiversity, California, Carla Resnick,

We have a saying around our house: When the pest control truck is at the neighbor’s house, all the spiders come over to our place because they know it is safe. Biodiversity is a top priority in my Northern California rural/suburban garden, and I work hard to have many plants, animals, insects, and, yes, arachnids represented.

I have seen a resident toad or two crawling around at night. I’ve spotted gopher snakes (of course we have gophers too), quail, hawks, owls, hummingbirds, bees, bugs, spiders, opossum, cats, feral turkeys, and even a beautiful pheasant stopped by. This does not even count my flock of thirty chickens, or the occasional human visitor we get. But it took a while to get to all this diversity.

The garden wasn’t always so welcoming to a variety of creatures. When we moved in, the backyard wasalmost entirely covered in English ivy, and the front yard was a perfect lawn.

In the backyard I removed small sections of ivy and started adding other plants. I planted a few apple tree guilds using Toby Hemmenway’s book Gaia’s Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture as my blueprint, with heirloom apple trees, dynamic mineral accumulators (like daikon radish), and herbs (both culinary and medicinal). I put in some, rhubarb, bell beans, corn, okra, lettuce, and plenty of squash for good measure. I felt like I had to just get one of everything growing.

Each fall, I’d expand my shrub and fruit tree plantings after laboriously removing the ivy by hand and shovel (I use no gas-powered tools in my garden). I put in currants, pomegranates, figs, apricots, olives, and peach trees. I planted what I considered unusual shrubs, like edible honeysuckle and pineapple guavas, just to have something different around the neighborhood.

In the front yard, patches of lawn became plantings of rosemary, lavender, salvias, elderberries, pineapple guavas, olive trees, grapes, almonds, citrus, and peaches.

8/9/2014 9:59:33 AM

I had a woman from the code enforcement office tell me I should trim up my shrubs in the front of my house. Since they looked fine to me, I asked her why. She replied "it can attract snakes"!!!! I said "great! I like snakes!" She just shuddered and walked away. This attitude is why out cities are sterile, lifeless places where only disease organisms flourish. We *need* snakes, spiders, caterpillars, ants, etc to make our gardens and yards come alive. Here's to more snakes in my yard!

9/9/2013 5:20:36 AM

this is fascinating! I love that photo of the hummingbird nesting on the lights too. absolutely wonderful.

9/8/2013 6:43:10 AM

Hi, Carla I think you are OK. I think this experience is very interesting and enjoyable for you. Regards.

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