Co-cultivating with trees for a sustainable garden
Co-cultivating with trees plays a vital role in life here on Earth. Thus, they are essential components, both when gardening and keeping animals. This chapter begins with a summary of the trees’ functions. At the end of it, I will go through things to consider when buying and planting trees – especially fruit trees.
Functions when co-cultivating with trees
For a farmer and gardener, the main focus is usually the harvest, even when it comes to trees. Often the role of the other trees is forgotten – for trees have many more functions than just providing a harvest. By co-cultivating with trees that have several different functions in your planning, the harvests will not only yield more, but the whole ecosystem will thank you.
As I explained in the chapter “Without trees, we would have deserts”, the trees play a vital role in nature’s water cycle. Here is a brief summary:
⇾ Rain along the coast contains 100 per cent seawater. The farther you get from seas and lakes, the more of the water in the rain is made up of water from the trees. Far away from larger bodies of water, there would be no rain without trees.
⇾ Unlike vapour from seas and oceans, vapour from forests contains considerably more rain creating particles.
⇾ A tree recycles over 74 per cent of the rain. The rest continues down to the groundwater.
The crown of a tree provides shade and coolness for both people, animals, and houses. Their shade also makes it possible to grow a wider variety of plants, as many plants thrive both in partial shade and in full shade.
Function as shelter
Trees can change the climate of a place. Just think about the difference between a forest and a felled area. By having trees placed thoughtfully, you create adequate wind protection for the benefit of plants, animals, and
Make compost when co-cultivating with trees
When the leaves fall to the ground, the next step in the ecosystem’s nutritional turnover starts. Do not rake the leaves – let them remain and decompose to become food for plants. They then provide the benefit they were meant to. The leaves also effectively help prevent evaporation from the soil. Falling leaves are one of nature’s best mulching materials. If you have an excess of leaves in your garden, you can rake some and cover the ground somewhere else, put them in the compost, or give away the leaves to someone who does not have enough. Leaves are full of nutrition and should not be burned.
The leftover branches from pruning are excellent for your compost – and if you cut the branches into small pieces, they break down faster. If there are too many branches, they can be saved in a pile for later use – for new growing beds, for example. In the meantime, hedgehogs like the environment they provide. Larger branches can also be used for firewood.
Co-cultivation with trees creates diversity
The plants that grow beneath and around a tree can – by using a well thought out design – create an interaction that benefits the group of plants as a whole. The shadow of a tree is an excellent example of this; because it helps the nitrogen-fixing plant to thrive, which favours another species that is good at attracting insects, who then, in turn, pollinate the tree.
Improve soil quality
When co-cultivating with threes, the trees also help reduce and counteract soil erosion by “holding on” to the soil. This works best in natural forests but worse in planted monocultures where the ecosystem is out of alignment, even if the environment looks like a forest.
Place for many animals
The trees offer a diverse habitat for many different animals. Insects are attracted to flowers and fruit; birds are attracted by both fruit and the availability of insects. Co-cultivating with trees also give many animals homes with protection against both weather, wind and predators.
Combining fruit trees with different kinds of pets results in even more benefits. The animals that enjoy eating the fallen fruit help reduce pests due to the fallen fruit being a perfect place for insects to lay their eggs. Larger animals such as sheep, goats, and cows contribute with nutrient-rich manure while processing the top layer of soil. In turn, the trees protect the animals against the hot sun, harsh wind, and rain …