Sunday, June 19, 2011

Balancing your Environment for Sustainability

 A balanced environment is the most sustainable. Here's what I mean by that, an eco-system that is balanced will maintain itself and need less of your hard work and money. It will evolve and mature as long as it does not have too much or too little of any one thing. A garden with no pesticides and a variety of plants will bring in many lifeforms rather than a mono-culture of pests. 




1) tomatoes in a row
2) tomatoes and herbs
This concept can explored further by comparing two gardens. 1) One garden has a row of tomato plants and treated with pesticides. 2) The other garden has 20 tomato plants of different varieties, planted interspersed with other vegetables such as beans, onions, and herbs, and has not been treated with any pesticides. The first garden will bring in a multitude of caterpillars, other tomato pests, and bacteria because there are so many of the same type of plants. The other garden, various varieties of tomato plants placed between other types of plants, may have some pests, but pests will not come in hordes because of the chemical reactions happening with the other plants and lifeforms. Where there is abundant, varied lifeforms, they will consume each other, creating balance


With balanced a eco-system, the lifeforms will balance themselves, leaving the tomato plants more energy to set fruit. This gives us a better harvest. 


Another example of this concept is the conventional veggie garden with pesticides vs the garden planted with both veggies and butterfly plants. Pesticides will stop caterpillars from eating your veggies, but it will do that by killing the caterpillars, which means that they will not live to become butterflies. A whole batch of cabbages planted next to each other will attract a lot of caterpillars, but a cabbage planted in between other plants will bring a much smaller number of caterpillars. 




Monarch butterflies lay eggs on milkweed
Milkweed plant

Check out this blog with great pictures of monarch caterpillar/butterfly on milkweed. The Clueless Gardener


All lifeforms bring other lifeforms. Plants attract bugs. Caterpillars attract birds. Birds eat bugs and leave droppings that attract smaller lifeforms, such as bacteria, that consume it and turn into soil. Watch this video of a adolescent blue jay, filmed in our backyard in Houston, that finds and eats small bugs in the mulch: 







In summary, I think we should stop using pesticides, even organic pesticides. Instead we should focus our energy on building heathy, varied, balanced eco-system.

There are primarily two ways to do it. 1) bring in more wildlife. 2) remove wildlife. Our next few posts, we'll talk more about these topics.