“When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.” John Muir
- Build healthy, humus-filled, moisture-retentive, biologically active soil with the addition of compost, cover crops, leaves, aged manure and other organic matter.
- Don’t use toxic chemicals of any kind on your property.
- Emulate nature with meadows, woodlands, hedgerows, ponds and plants native to your area.
- Keep lawn areas to a minimum (a California law limits lawn area to 800 square feet in some areas). Use drought tolerant, dwarf flowering lawn mixes such as Ecology Lawn and Fleur de Lawn or Micro-clover.
- Leave grass clipping on lawns to feed soil bacteria, worms and add nitrogen back to the grass. A mulching mower or reel mower does a wonderful job.
- Don’t plant lawn on slopes or in hard to water areas. Use groundcovers instead, preferably native ones.
- Plant a well rounded mix of plants; evergreen and deciduous trees and shrubs, fruits, herbs, vegetables and flowers (native and non-native) Diversity is a key component in ecological balance.
- Choose and Place plants carefully;
- Use native varieties when possible as they are best adapted to your climate and need the least human attention to thrive.
- Naturally drought-tolerant and insect and disease resistant plants require little care and water.
- Place plants carefully with attention to their sun and moisture needs and their ultimate size and shape, they will then need less care and little, if any, pruning.
- Choose food bearing plants for hedges, privacy screens, shade, bird and critter shelter and food, beauty, fragrance, windbreaks, erosion control, cover crops, medicine, compost material, nitrogen fixing, firewood, noise barrier, etc.
- Choose plants that need little or no annual pruning in order to bear fruit well or to be healthy.
- Cover bare soil with groundcovers, self-seeding annuals (those that reappear on their own after we seed them the first year), mulch or cover crops. Black-eyed Susan, forget-me-not, calendula, borage, and sweet alyssum are common self-seeders in this climate.
- Use drip and ooze watering systems whenever possible to conserve water and use it more efficiently.
- Group heavy water using plants together whenever possible.
- Don’t rake leaves where it isn’t necessary. They act as a natural mulch and feed the plants they fell from necessary nutrients. This is the natural process. If you must rake them up ― put them on garden and shrub beds or compost them and return them to the area in the form of finished compost.
- Leave weeds where you can. Many, like Queen Anne’s lace, milkweed and wild mustard are food plants for predator insects and butterflies. Many others ―chickweed, lamb’s quarters, pigweed, purslane and dandelions are important food for humans, too (we have just forgotten this).
- Welcome and encourage bats, owls, shrews, wasps, bees, spiders, snakes, frogs, toads, dragonflies, etc. Honor the role they play in keeping the insect, and rodent populations under control.
- Put up bird, bat and screech owl houses to replace lost habitat in the wild.
- Add a frog pond and a birdbath. Most creatures need water to drink.
- Place a rock pile somewhere for critter habitat, hiding and sunning.
- Leave a small pile of brush and twigs in some secluded corner for the same reason. Grow a vine over it if you don’t like the way it looks.
- Don’t prune ground level branches from evergreen shrubs and trees if possible ―they provide good cover for small creatures.
- Teach the children in your life the importance of all plants and creatures great and small. Work together toward understanding the roles each plays in the complex web of life on this planet. With an effort toward tolerance of the wild plants, insects and other small creatures with which we share our backyards, we can help to bring balance and harmony back to our planet.
This is a compilation of excerpts from The Holistic Garden – a book by Barbara Allen.