Gardening for diversity and achieving an ideal harvest

Gardening for diversity and achieving an ideal harvest is all about the details. How and what we grow can be varied almost infinitely, as long as we understand what works best for our growing conditions and own goals.

The ideal place to grow your crops

The very best place for cultivation here in the Nordic region is on a southern slope; due to this being the angle where you get the most out of the sun. Most other conditions can be solved when the place is right.

The location should have protection both to the north and to the west. The soil needs to have rich humus content, be nutritious, and be able to retain a fair amount of water.

The cultivation beds should first of all lie slightly twisted to the southwest, as long as this does not mean that they end up sitting vertically in relation to the slope. Should this be the case, it is better to lay the beds horizontally along the slope, and adapt how you plant in the beds so that the crops face the southwest.

An old piece of Swedish wisdom says;
“The north wind brings frost and hail, the chilly westerly winds delay the development of the plants, and may even kill them”.
– From Trädgårdsmästaren, in 1917

Choosing plants when gardening for diversity

Among the most enjoyable things to do is reading seed and plant catalogues – but sometimes it is important to master oneself and plan for what you actually need. Gardening for diversity has three essential factors to consider:
⇾ The shape of the plant, how it grows and how old it becomes
⇾ The plant’s climate zone, how it tolerates sun, shade, what it needs from the soil, pH tolerance, and other specific requirements that a plant may have
⇾ Use of the plant; such as food for humans and animals, to attract pollinators, to prevent damage, medical use, soil improvement, soil erosion protection, wind protection or simply just because it is beautiful

Create diversity

Diversity is invaluable in many aspects. When it comes to gardening for diversity it is easy to focus only on what benefits you. Still, to create a good ecosystem, other plants are needed. Here are another three key points that one needs to incorporate to create a greater diversity:
⇾ Host plants for insects feeding on pests (predators)
⇾ Sacrificial plants are plants that are sacrificed to various pests to protect the plant that you want to prioritize
⇾ Plants that attract different useful insects and pollinators

Improve the Earth when growing for diversity

The most important thing when cultivating is actually “feeding” the soil. If you have poor soil, it is natural to improve the soil to grow plants. Still, if you do not return the nutrition that disappears when you grow and harvest, the soil will gradually deteriorate and eventually die. In the end, there will not be any gardening for diversity. Just like all other living things, the soil also needs food.

Grow vertically when growing for diversity

Many plants prefer to grow up along nets, trellises, poles, fences, and trees. You can even use hanging flowerpots of varying kinds. Plants that grow vertically have the great advantage of only taking up a minimal surface area to its size. These plants also protect the soil around them. This can be used advantageously in your garden by, for example, planting a vertical plant next to another low growing plant that needs some extra protection. The more powerful climbing plants can also be used to create a shaded trellis at the patio, or on a hot south wall to cool the house.

Intercropping when growing for diversity

Intercropping, or co-cultivation, has become increasingly common, which is a huge advantage for everyone involved; the soil, plants, insects, and ourselves. Intercropping is a subject where there is a lot to learn, but the foundation is that you match up plants that support each other in different ways. It can be plants that do not compete for the same nutrients or space (both above and below the ground) or a sun-loving plant that gives shade to a sun-sensitive variety. Another form of co-cultivation is to combine perennials with annuals. Because the perennials are usually the ones that get going first in spring, the …