Prairies are used for excellent pest control

Prairie gardens can be described as natural, native gardens. They are pleasing to look at because they include flowers, grassy textures and you will always see wildlife. Subconsciously, the human eye understands that it is looking at a healthy ecosystem and that these plants grow where they belong. Prairies are used for organic, natural pest control because its design attracts, deters and takes care of every possible problem known to that area.

To get a prairie right, you have to ideally copy what grows there naturally.

The latest trend in organic, perma-cultural, regenerative and even mono-crop farming includes environmentally friendly pest-control methods – which are in fact as old as the hills. Biological pest control methods involve planting wild flower strips (let’s call them bug highways) around their crops. The plants attract pollinators and beneficial insects to take care of pests. Herbs are especially successful in both attracting the right insects and yet deterring pests. Thus rendering the use of pesticides useless. As pesticides impact on bees negatively (to name one terrible side effect), planting prairies only makes sense.

Check out this list of pollinator-attracting plants https://gardeningeden.net/2019/10/30/bee-gardening/ and the companion planting list will show plant combinations that deter pests and what https://gardeningeden.net/2019/10/28/companion-planting/

A good tip is to plant 1 third grasses and 2 thirds perennial flowers. These plants should be planted in clumps of 7 each (i.e 7 grasses next to 7 flowers of one kind and also 7 of another – and repeat as you i.e plant your border around the veggie patch). Include bulbs for your under-planting and you will have a great-looking mini-prairie in no time. Look at your nearest botanical garden. What mid-size flowering perennials and ornamental grasses did they include there? Those are good choices to go on the list. Make sure your soil is well draining and fertile by adding compost and mulch. Adopt no-dig principles and let the mycorrhizal fungi settle.

Prairies are used for their many benefits: mainly-indigenous prairie gardens are mostly maintenance-free, attractive and highly beneficial in terms of inviting back wildlife and restoring ecosystems. They act as mega supermarkets to pollinators and birds, reptiles and other critters that was part of the once natural balance.

Indigenous wildflowers, grasses and bulbs are conditioned to thrive where they are from and thus have lower water and feeding requirements, but higher resistance to disease and pests. They cause soil improvement, prevention of erosion plus higher yields of food crops.

Prairies are used for farming and food gardens where natural methods are practiced. Purely indigenous is not where the focus should be but rather everyone lives by the golden rule of diversity above all else. If great diversity can be achieved through indigenous choices, that is of course best and also the main idea behind permaculture. We can only benefit by honoring this all-inclusive method, and our planet’s health will be restored in no time.

What is Permaculture Gardening?

I have a dream. I dream of a world where the environment needs no protecting.

Our planet’s future depends on certain changes and permaculture is one of them. o Surely we have a responsibility to leave for future generations a planet that is healthy and habitable by all species – Sir David Attenborough (Photo by Paige Cody on Unsplash )

To explain what is permaculture gardening, one has to consider being more resourceful and self-reliant through an ecological design system that helps find solutions in a natural manner, not just for the humans but also for our wildlife.

“Permaculture, originally ‘Permanent Agriculture’, is often viewed as a set of gardening techniques, but it has in fact developed into a whole design philosophy, and for some people a philosophy for life. Its central theme is the creation of human systems which provide for human needs, but using many natural elements and drawing inspiration from natural ecosystems. Its goals and priorities coincide with what many people see as the core requirements for sustainability.” – Emma Chapman

This is a low-maintenance design-option (sounds good right?!) and works solely with what is naturally there and includes a design that mimics nature in the natural growing and interaction between plant, animal and insect species, so that no fertilizers or pesticides are needed. Sunlight and water patterns are first observed and which then decides the placements of beds. Designs work with the wind, sun and water, provides food and shelter for insects, birds and wildlife and makes use of compost to feed the soil. After all, soil is life.

First things first…. designing your permaculture garden starts with getting familiar with all things indigenous – the plants, predators, pests and benefactors in your area. Rather than going on a whim, take a moment and see how your most natural, untouched and thriving local area works. Think about how you can use that knowledge.

Next, the sun is king. You need to find an area that gets at least 6 hours of direct sunlight daily.

Start working on a list of your favorite plant wish-list. Group them according to their needs and compatibility. Requirements include sun and water plus neighbours that should get along. See this list of companion plants https://gardeningeden.net/category/uncategorised/companion-planting/

Ideally pollinators should love your plants, pests should be directed away and a barter system between plant talents should be encouraged such as nutrient exchange (example: growing grains next to peas). Check out this list of pro-pollinator plants! https://gardeningeden.net/2019/10/30/bee-gardening/ Tallest sun-worshipers should be at the back, such as trees, with shorter shrubs in front of them and small plants in the front row. ***Create a sowing calendar. Make sure to sow new plants halfway through existing growing plant cycles. A bed should have babies, teenagers and adults at all times.

Regenerative gardens are the best https://gardeningeden.net/2019/10/08/growing-a-regenerative-garden-in-eden/ <<< you may wonder why you have not converted much earlier.

After considering your plants list, how big should your beds be?

Raised beds are great choices and they should be wide enough to fit double plant rows and narrow enough to work on both sides from the path in-between. Soil is life. See how to build up layers inside these beds to ultimately create a no-dig soil environment. I have tried it and will never go back to old ways.

Make sure you honour your soil appropriately. Successful gardens have one thing in common: healthy soil. Soil should be covered like the human skin. Mulch is a good place to start as it prevents weeds while also feeding the soil. This makes the use of awful weed killers, fertilizers and herbicides unnecessary. Now you have saved money and avoided making the mistake of using such awful synthetic killer products. Don’t till your soil. Period. Popular and effective mulches include wood chips and although they initially remove some nitrogen to break down, this only happens during the first layer. After that, all the nitrogen goes back into the soil, plus much much more. More on soil health here: https://gardeningeden.net/category/soilhealth/

What is permaculture gardening without recycling garden/kitchen waste back into the system as compost? Create a composting system from green waste products (uncooked food scraps, weeds, dead plants, leaves) with brown waste products (paper scraps, sawdust or wood pruning material) is a simple method that works successfully.

Finally, make sure you are setting up a low-waste watering system through for example drip irrigation, swales, Hugelkultur (see: https://gardeningeden.net/2019/10/02/growing-back-the-garden-of-eden-with-hugelkultur/ ) and collect water run-off from gutters.

This video above is probably my favorite permaculture youtube vid. I hope you find good inspiration in it too.

Plants that attract bees for regenerative gardening

Regenerative, thriving gardens include plants that attract bees and butterflies. Photo by Emiel Molenaar on Unsplash

The secret to growing a regenerative and ecologically-successful garden, is diversity in plantlife, inclusion of wildlife and plants that attract bees and other pollinators. That’s pretty much it in a nutshell. Plant as many different varieties of as many different ornamentals, vegetables, fruits and grains as you possibly can. Cover the soil with a cover crop so that the soil can recover and return to health. Insects, birds and critters, animals and reptiles all play a role in either boosting growth or controlling pests. Copy nature… it is that simple.

A site that has dead soil and nothing going on, can literally be turned in a regenerative food heaven in 3 years and by year 7, if you encourage all animals and insects to play with, you will have a space that can look after itself.

To do this, you need to start with the soil and I have discussed in https://gardeningeden.net/category/soilhealth/ how to easily create soil health.
Create swales where you need them so that water can be directed where you need them.
Plant the biggest variety of plants available to you.
Encourage insect life and allow wildlife. Included below is a list of plants that will attract the most important pollinators.
Lastly, remember that all challenges are simply dealt with by shuffling details around. For example: if you have too many snails, consider getting ducks as they love hunting for snails all day long. Invite owls to keep rodent numbers in check as bigger birds also deter starlings and other fruit-loving birds that my become a problem. Dead soil and a lack of bees can simultaneously be fixed by planting a wildflower meadow as cover crop and also providing cover in the form of insect hotels for example. And always, ALWAYS stay organic.

Flowers and plants that attract bees and butterflies:
Alyssum
Aster
Bee balm
Butterfly bush
Calendula
Cosmos
Daylily
Delphinium
Dianthus
Fennel
Globe thistle
Goldenrod
Hollyhock
Lavender
Marigold
Musk mallow
Nasturtium (Kappertjies)
Oregano
Phlox
Purple coneflower
Queen Anne’s lace
Sage (Salvia)
Scabiosa
Shasta daisy
Stonecrop
Verbena
Yarrow
Zinnia
Plants that attract butterfly larvae:
Borage
Fennel
Grasses
Hollyhocks
Lupine
Milkweed
Nettle
Thistle
Willow
Plants that attract bees:
Allium
Aster
Basil
Bee balm
Bergamot
Borage
Cosmos
Flax
Gaillardia
Geranium
Giant hyssop
Globe thistle
Goldenrod
Helianthus
Hyssop
Lavender
Lupine
Marjoram
Mint
Mullein
Paint brush
Poppy
Rosemary
Sage
Skullcap
Sunflower
Thyme
Verbena
Wallflower
Wild rose
Zinnia
Trees, Shrubs and Fruit that attract butterflies and bees:
Almond
Apple
Blackcurrant
Cherry
Gooseberry
Hawthorn
Linden
Pear
Plum
Raspberry
Strawberry
Wild lilac
Willow

Have you got any tips for attracting bees, moths or butterflies? Please share in the comment box.

Flowering plants for shade that pollinators will love

Photo by Vincent van Zalinge on Unsplash

Not everyone is fortunate enough to have large, or sunny, gardens to grow theur own food in. And in order to have a successful vegetable garden, pollinators and bees are essential. To know if your garden gets enough sun to grow food in, you can simply put a solar-energy toy outside. If it runs, you have enough sun to grow most vegetables and the pollinator-attractive plants in-between. Kerp your sunny space for vegetables and your pollinator-friendly flowering plants for shade wherethere is not enough sun.

Bees, butterflies, moths and other pollinators will love your ornamental, but shady garden – and in turn they will work on your pollination sector for free. Please share your own shade-loving plant names and tips with us in the comment section below.

Below is a list of gorgeous flowering plants for shade:

Astilbes will handle shady spots with moist or wet, sandy, loam or clay soils. They have gorgeous colourful flower spikes and multiply by means of clump-formation.

Hydrangeas offer old-world charm and fantastic food and housing to our pollinators. Shrubs vibrates with life especially during their spring and summer flowering period. As long as they are never too long in deep shade, but as little as a bit of morning sun, you will find them low-maintenance and a pleasure.

Begonias are firmly on the favorite list. They add beauty and vibrancy to shady patios.Tubers can be replanted the following year if stored dry over winter.

Chaenomeles (flowering quince) are perfect plants for cold and shady conditions. They bare gorgeous flowers and scented yellow fruits.

Coleus foliage always energizes the space it grows in. The coleus varieties differ in colours, ranging from greens to purples, yellows, oranges and reds – plus textures can be velvet-soft, scalloped-edged or fringed.

‘Burning Hearts’ dicentra are easy to grow and charming with its deep red, heart-shaped flowers from spring to summer. This perennial will thrive in low-light beds.

Cornus florida is a dogwood variety that does not need sun and will tolerate semi- to full-shade. It carries gorgeous white spring flowers and reddish-purple autumn / fall foliage color.

Aristolochia macrophylla, or Dutchman’s Pipe, is famous for its unique purple flowers, dense foliage and fast spreading habit. A climber worth having in gardens that lack sun.

Hellebores are easy to grow evergreens (or just about) and often referred to as Lenten rose due to their spring flowers. They thrive in shade and struggles with sun.

Impatiens is a highly shade tolerant plant with many varieties to choose from, including Impatiens balsamina or Impatiens rosulata.

Lily of the valley is gorgeous… even in dark corners. They don’t need much maintenance and will spread happily by themselves while also providing your with gorgeous, albeit highly poisonous, white blooms.

Myrtle is a drought-tolerant, sun or shade shrub that is tough enough to make a great hedge. Pollinators love the white blossoms.

Pelargoniums are tough by nature and love to please. They have thrived in every type of soil and sun-quality garden and will flower almost on neglect. They have many varieties to choose from with bright reds, pinks and purples flower options.

Please send us your pictures, challenges and success stories in the comment section below, so that we can all learn together!