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Diversity is good

If you look at a natural ecosystem, you’ll find a diverse range of plants, animals, fungi and microbes living together, interacting and supporting a sustainable system. Everything from the rainforests of the Amazon to a spoonful of healthy soil is packed full of life.

The story changes when humans get involved. People like simplicity, they like efficiency. So, farmland becomes a vast expanse of monocultures. Huge fields of wheat or corn or rice – most of the time grown from seeds where each one is genetically very similar to the next. Even gardeners tend to favour a carefully curated set of plants to grow in the borders, and a neat lawn featuring a restricted number of species of grass.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. Growing our own food at home allows us to explore and experiment with diversity. We can support seed companies offering open-pollinated, heirloom or rare seeds, or some of the innovative breeding programmes that are producing new varieties grown for taste rather than uniformity.

We can embrace diversity in our gardens by growing a patchwork of fruit, herbs and vegetables. Too much of any one thing becomes a neon sign to pests… ‘eat here!’. Grow in the cottage garden style – a mix of edibles and flowers, and it makes it more difficult for pests to home in on your prized carrots or cabbages. And by growing organically, we are enabling the beneficial insects and soil microbes to live and feed without the risk of poisoning.

These are simple steps we can all take to bring diversity to our own gardens. It’s true… we won’t be changing the world overnight but, you know, small steps.

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