What does ‘trusting nature’ mean?
Trusting nature from a gardeners perspective means that we have come to an understanding that nature is our best ally and teacher. We trust nature to provide microbes to breakdown our compost making nutrients available to our plants.
We trust her to enable earth worms to reproduce and give our soil aeration and nutrients. Perhaps we might trust nature to provide rain and sunshine, a temperate or subtropical climate. Without trusting nature we wouldn’t trust our seeds to germinate and grow into plants. We wouldn’t trust our plants to produce more seed.
Trusting nature therefore means we don’t have to always intervene when we see something that we didn’t plan to see. Nature provides us with so many opportunities and without her, none of us could life here on this wonderful planet.
Working with natural elements
Trusting nature doesn’t mean we don’t do what is necessary for the health of our plants. We need fertile soil for some plants, without which, they will suffer and die. So we give our soil composts and manures and rock minerals if the plants growing in them need it. We put full sun plants into full sun positions and same with the shade lovers.
Good gardening includes creating the conditions necessary for our plants to flourish. We attend to those conditions by tending to the soil – is it fertile enough or is it too fertile for a particular plant? Is it well draining enough or does our plant need a more waterlogged soil?
Have we planted an arid plant into a heavy soil or a light well draining soil? Is there enough organic matter in the soil to feed the microbes in their diversity of will our selection of organic matter reduce microbe numbers and diversity? These are all conditions necessary for successful gardening outcomes.
So, trusting nature means that once we’ve done what we can, we don’t necessarily need to intervene and this is most relevant when we see what people call ‘pest’ insects in our gardens and munching on our plants. When we do see herbivore (pest) insects, we can also trust nature. Perhaps leaf chewers and sap suckers are natures way of telling us one or more conditions necessary are in fact missing?
Nature seeks balance and homeostasis
Years ago I saw an aphid infestation on some fennel flowers. The aphids were so thick and abundant I could hardly see the stems. I decided to do nothing and watch what might happen. Would the fennel die? Would it get sick? What was the real detriment likely to be if I left the aphids?
Three days later I saw lady beetles and their larvae. They were starting to consume the aphids. I also noticed hover flies buzzing around the flowers. Two or three days after that I noticed grub like creatures. At first I thought they were caterpillars but upon closer inspection I noticed they weren’t eating the plant – they were eating the aphids. It was fascinating!
I learned that they were the babies of hover flies. Over the next few days or so these two key predators were joined by small wasps that parasitised the aphids one by one. It didn’t take too long before I couldn’t find a single aphid on the fennel flowers.
The photos below show some of the lady beetle larvae and also some hover fly larvae. (Please note that there are many different types of lady beetles in our environment and their larvae vary in appearance.)
If I’d taken action upon those aphids on the fennel flowers, I would have taken a key food source from the predator insects. The fennel didn’t get sick from the ‘pest’ infestation. Nothing bad happened to me or my plants.
I’ve replicated that experiment heaps of times since. Most of the time nature steps in and seeks and achieves balance. We just need to stop, wait and allow her some time.
Trusting nature includes those times when our plants get sick. Those of us who use organic methods, know that most issues can be resolved by a good compost, a manure tea or an organic foliar solution.
We know that when our plants get infested with sap sucking insects or leaf chewers, there’s some problem we haven’t attended to. Sick plants indicate a system out of whack. It could be the soil type or it could be a lack of organic matter, or a lack of microbes, or water or light or shade. Nature is complex and so is gardening and horticulture.
However, when we realise that trusting nature is a matter of understanding natural systems we start to realise that adding some small thing can cause a massive change. One use of a harmful insecticide can rid a garden of predator insects for months.
Instead we can use non-aggressive methods to bolster plant health. We don’t need to be violent in and with our gardens. My blog on the borers is a case study where I solved a borer infestation in a tree. I used organic methods and materials to increase the health of the tree. This stimulated its resistance mechanism and the borer problem disappeared.
I didn’t have to take any action against the borers. I identified the problem as a tree health problem and took action based on that. Just like with the aphids on the fennel – but in that case I didn’t have to do anything at all.
Trusting nature seems a weird thing to do. However, when we think about it, we’re living in nature. We’re a part of nature not separate at all. The real question I suppose is: we might learn to trust nature, but can nature trust us?