Garden Tidbits - Expert Advice for the Garden and Landscape

The Limits of Diversity

A common theme in the sustainable/organic world is the premise "diversity equals stability." I wish the continual references to generic "Diversity" in the popular press would end. While diversity within an ecosystem allows for a complex interaction between all the elements, plants, animals, and people; it is not a panacea. Randomly-chosen diversity or complexity doesn't necessarily provide any special benefits. And using tropical diversity as a model is childlike. While the tropics often have lots of vertically-integrated plants, the temperate American landscape, with its hardwood forests, meadows, and prairies, is less vertically complex and is more adapted to the growth of annual plants than the tropics.

diversity in gardens

        
This not to say that our gardens, and particularly our farms, can't be diverse. Most gardens have plenty of room for more well-chosen diversity which may enrich the biological atmosphere and the environmental dynamics for a more self-modulating garden. Such gardens are perhaps more natural, but a far cry from actual native ecosystems.
           
But our garden's diversity must be composed of the proper plants. For example, kudzu is theoretically a multipurpose plant with many edible parts and useful fibers. Adding kudzu would be another unit of diversity in your garden. But you better leave town before your neighbors come after you as the kudzu vines entangle everything that's moving slower than 25 miles-per-hour! More subtly, you may think twice about nurturing lamb's-quarters if you're growing lots of heirloom tomato plants because this tasty edible "weed" also harbors verticillium wilt. Too much diversity, or the wrong kind, only promotes that universal dynamic called chaos.



 


 

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