The science of companion planting is simple: it provides you with a varied and beautiful garden, and it allows your plants to help each other grow healthier and deter pests.
- Planting a plant that pests hate–such as marigolds–in close proximity to those that pests love will prevent them from coming to dinner where they aren’t invited.
- Similarly, planting insectary plants that draw beneficial insects, such as ladybugs and damselflies, helps to populate your garden with natural garden pest predators.
- Planting trap crops, such as nasturtiums, near the crops you’d like to keep draws pests in to the trap crop so they avoid the plants you’d like to keep around.
- Some plants function as natural trellises for others. Planting corn among bean plants allows the beans to snake up the cornstalks. Leave the bean roots in the ground when you harvest the plant, this releases the stored up nitrogen in the nitrogen-fixing nodules.
- Other plants shelter and protect more delicate plants from wind or harsh direct sunlight.
- By implementing the “buddy system” for your garden, you can minimize pests while maximizing the nutrients in your soil and the “fruits” of all your hard work.
Composting BasicsWhat is Composting? It is the purposeful biodegradation of organic matter, such as yard and food waste. The decomposition is performed by micro-organisms, including bacteria, yeasts, and fungi. There are a wide range of organisms in the decomposer community, including springtails, ants, nematoes, isopods and earthworms. Composting breaks organic materials down into humus, which is the final stage of decomposition. At this point, the material is considered stable, in that it does not break down into any further constituents and remains stable as this compound. Humus is dark, spongy and jelly-like, and is amorphus in composition. It acts like a sponge, helping to retain moisture in the soil by increasing microporosity. It contributes to the fertility of the soil and is often described as the 'life-force' of the soil.
Understanding EcosystemsOne of the great challenges is to understand how science works in the real world, not out of a text book. Dr. Suzuki describes current science as following the philosophy of reductionism - where we look at each separate component individually - the reality is that in the real world, it is all connected. Climate systems and hydrological cycles are local and global, and weather systems connect us all. Ecosystems that have evolved under specific climatic conditions will change. What will those changes look like? Did you know that ecosystems in Canada have already been identified and mapped by Agriculture Canada and Environment Canada?
- Butterfly Gardens
- Canning Vegetables
- Care of the Vegetable Garden
- Cool Weather Crops
- Fall Vegetable Gardens
- Vegetables. Harvesting and Storing Fresh Garden Vegetables
- Lasagna NO DIG Garden
- Organic Gardening Dummies
- Water Saving In The Garden
- Control Vegetable Pests Organically
- Vegetable Gardening Encyclopedia - With Special Herb Section
PermaculturePermaculture is the science of living sustainably. It is an integrated design process that looks at how our human habitat can coexist within natures laws. Courses are available all over the world in permaculture design. Check out the following sites to get a glimpse of how permaculture is important for food sustainability.
Garden SoilsUnderstanding the soil in your garden is key to successful gardening. The amount of available nutrients, along with the microbiological health of your soil, is key to healthy plant growth.The websites below will help you understand the importance of the nutrient components, as well as the ability of your soil to retain water based on the Soil Organic Matter. Most soils are derived from 3 common parent materials (rock types), these are igneous, sedimentary and metamorphic.Lastly there are organic soils, which are commonly called muck soils.More than 20% of the composition of these soils is organic matter, which is derived from cumulose (incomplete decomposition of plant matter due to settling in water).
TextureThis term refers to the soil constituents - sand, silt, and clay. The percentage of each component in a soil determines it texture class.Loam, which is a great soil for sustainable agriculture is composed of all three constituent in roughly equal parts. Clay dominates its on soil texture class because of its very small size and strong negative charge. Clay soils can have as little as 40% clay particles - and up to 60% sand or silt. Sand is an inert material, meaning it does not retain nutrients or water. Sand is loosely packed with many large pore spaces, giving it good drainage. Sandy soils are generally dry and are poor soils requiring frequent watering and fertilizing for plant growth.They can be amended with organic matter (OM) and clay to improve water and nutrient retention.
StructureMineral soil particles clump together forming aggregates, this in turn gives the soil its structure or tilth. There are pore spaces between the aggregates, ensuring movement of air and water through the soil. Soil with good tilth will be approximately 50% pore space, half containing water and the other half containing air. Pores are important because they allow water to enter the soil then drain away from the roots after a rain. This drainage is important because it gives the roots the opportunity to respire (they use Oxygen and release Carbon dioxide), and take in water. It also forces roots to grow in the direction of the water source, which is important for root crops such as carrots. Substances, such as Calcium and other positively charged minerals, help soil aggregate. Other factors include plant root tips, organic matter, humus, microorganisms, and earthworms. Humus, compost or other organic matter, will improve the structure, improve root growth, increase the microorganism population and attract earthworms.
Soil TilthTilth is the physical structure of the soil, and it is strongly influenced by humified organic matter...for more on this topic, please link to Maintaining Soil Tilth and Fertility
Metals in Your SoilControversy still exists about metal uptake by garden plants. Here is some information from the Ministry of the Environment on how various metals can be taken up by different garden crops. If you soil is contaminated, chances are you won't be able to grow vegetables on it anyways, but have your soil tested if you have any concerns. The pH level of your soil is a good indicator of soil health, and should be tested regularly and neutralized with the addition of lime.
Ministry of Environment Factsheets on Metals in the SoilIf you are concerned about lead in your garden, please read the factsheets below. Did you know that lettuce leaves can store seven times more lead than the roots of carrots. Beet leaves contain more lead than beet roots.
- Soil Maps of Canada
- Mycorrhizae and Soil Health
- Soil and Nutrient Management
- Soil Crust (website)
- Soil Crust (document to download)