As the term ecological gardening increases in popularity, many people are beginning to wonder exactly what it means. The answer is that it is a combination of horticulture and environmental science. Horticulture is about food production, while environmental science studies why natural ecosystems behave as they do. Put them together, and you get individuals applying the natural laws observed in ecosystems to horticulture in an effort to make the latter as efficient as possible.
This means that the secrets to great farming can be revealed by studying natural ecosystems. Natural ecosystems tend to consist of a diverse array of both living and nonliving components, each of which interacts with other components in a mutually beneficial manner.
If one component is eliminated, it has a negative impact on all of the other components that depended on it. For example, an animal may go extinct if its favorite plant to eat is eliminated from an ecosystem, while a prey species may experience an unsustainable population boom if its predator is no longer around.
How The Ecosystem Is Intertwined With Everything Within
Nature hates when something is removed and generally tries to replace it immediately, as the ecosystem depends on everything interacting together. In environmental science, the removal of a vital component leaves an “empty niche.” This niche can be filled in a variety of ways, including seeds that have been dormant for years, an expanded role for another species already present, or the migration of another species to the ecosystem in question.
When humans grow food, we are essentially creating an ecosystem in our garden that is no different, fundamentally, from an ecosystem found anywhere else in nature. If we plant vegetables without regard for empty niches, weeds pop up to fill in the ecosystem’s gaps. Weeds are the ultimate colonizers in the plant world, so once they are in they usually have little difficulty destroying the crops humans want to eat.
How Environmental Science Can Help Deal With Nature Related Issues
Thankfully, environmental science can teach us how to avoid empty niche spaces and the weeds that fill them without resorting to harmful chemicals that may harm desirable plants or humans as well as the weeds. The solution is simple: just avoid having empty niche spaces. If empty niche spaces are unavoidable, fill them with something desirable before the weeds take over. This way, you can have a weed-free vegetable garden that requires less maintenance while offering higher yields than a traditional garden.
I am qualified in both horticulture and environmental science, and I can personally attest to how well the two fields work together. I incorporate natural weed management, soil ecology, crop management, and pest ecology principles that I learned from environmental science into my personal garden.
The results have been excellent, as the vegetables produced are high quality with only a minimum of maintenance on my part. The processes that lead to these results are not too complicated, making me incredibly confident that ecological gardening is the food production method of the future.
There are a lot of quacks out there that claim to offer miraculous chemicals which make growing food a breeze. Ask for the science behind their solution. I am not one of them. Instead, I advocate the use of sound scientific principles, studied in environmental science, to maximize the results of horticulture. It is a common sense solution to our ongoing efforts to increase our food supply.
Recommended resources: Easiest, low effort home vegetable gardening