Gardening Ecology: Basic Life Supporting Systems (Part 2)

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Ecological Gardening

This is a guest post by Jonathan White of Food4Wealth.

This is Part 2 in a series about the basic ecology of a garden and how it helps to restore our basic life-supporting systems. This includes water, air and soil. Read Part 1 in the series here.

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Modern-day human intervention can offer short-term solutions, but cannot fix the cause of the problem. Irrigation from bores cannot provide a sustainable solution to the breakdown of the water system. Irrigation only lowers the ground water further making the problem even bigger than it was. The use of groundwater is not a bad practice in all cases, but it doesn’t fix the root problem. Likewise, inorganic fertilizers will not repair the soil systems. If a soil is being leached of nutrients due to water passing through it too quickly and hungry hybrid crops feeding on it, it will not be repaired by adding more minerals. The same forces that are depleting the soils are still happening, so the soils will continue to become depleted. Inorganic fertilizers cannot restore soil structure and cannot build new soil, like a natural ecosystem can.

Monoculture farmer spraying fields with fertilizer.

Commonsense will tell you that if there are no natural soil-building systems in place and soils are being lost and degraded, then fertilizer dependence must increase. Year after year more fertilizer will be needed to obtain the same yield. Remember, the farmer depends on a predetermined yield to fulfill his lifestyle, but now there is a greater cost to maintain that yield, in the form of store-bought fertilizers. As costs increase, net profits decrease and eventually the whole operation becomes economically nonviable. When you add market instability and retail competitiveness to the equation, you can see how difficult it would be to survive as a farmer. The solution, so far, has been to cut the amount of human labor on farms because they are the most expensive part of the operation. This is done by increasing the size of the operation and the equipment. Large conglomerate companies can grow crops over thousands of acres, tended by very few humans. In ecological terms, this means less diversity over a larger area, which means less natural components and less natural systems in operation. Of course, the result is that the basic life-supporting systems; water, air and soil, will be ruined at a quicker rate. Surely that means that even these massive operations will eventually become too costly to run.

The only way to keep an ecosystem alive and healthy is to make sure the basic life-supporting systems – water, air and soil – are intact. This applies to any patch of land, whether it’s a native forest, a farm or an urban garden. Every ecosystem is just a smaller part of a larger ecosystem. In fact, the whole planet could be referred to as a single ecosystem. What we do on a local level may only cause a tiny effect, but if a significant number of local people start doing the same thing, then it will cause an effect on a slightly larger scale. If this is replicated on a big enough scale, then eventually, our actions can affect an entire planet.

to be continued…

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About Jonathan White

Jonathan White, B.App.Sci. Assoc. Dip.App. Sci. is a self-employed landscape designer, Environmental Scientist, and environmental consultant. He's the founder of the Food4Wealth system, an eBook and video package that teaches you how to set up and maintain an ecological vegetable garden. For more information, please visit Food4Wealth.

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