Saturday, 19 October 2013

Species Diversity

One of the aims of our grassed area within the little field is to have as much diversity, as many different plants, as possible for various reasons:

Diversity reasons


To increase the number of pollinators for our fruit and vegetables. After reading about pollination I learned that, for example, Strawberries are an aggregate fruit and that each little part, each little seed, needs to be fertilized and if this doesn't happen fully then the fruit can be mis-shapen and smaller. When you see a deformed Strawberry it is because not all parts of the fruit were pollinated. Since Strawberries need insects to pollinate them the more insects you have the better chance of a more full fertilization. Hopefully on days when Bees aren't around other insects will be. Better fertilization means better crops and often bigger crops. On top of this the blossom can appear during times when bees and hoverflies aren't about, such as cold periods or perhaps windy periods which can stop the pollination.  More diversity within plants and flowers will attract a wider range of insects and a better chance to pollinate. Since the field's main objective is food production we need as many insects as possible.

More overall insects will obviously mean more insects that we don't want because many are harmful to our crops  but we are hoping that nature will balance itself and provide enough insects so that some pray on others which may keep the ones we don't really want in check.

Without plant diversity, just a patch of Sprouts for example, we attract just a few species of insect, namely the Large and small white butterfly, which in turn devours the entire crop but by increasing diversity, perhaps by adding Nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus), we give the insects we don't ideally want a second food source. This may not stop the Small white from destroying our Sprouts but it will give them a chance to lay their eggs on both the Sprouts and the Nasturtium which does, in theory, reduce the number of caterpillars on the Sprouts to reduce their effect.

It may not work but one idea is to use the knowledge we learnt this summer, namely, we saw the Small and Large White Butterfly come in at one end of the field and fly all the way down it to the Sprouts. We intend to plant Nasturtium within the wild grassy / wild flower end of the field to hopefully stop the White Butterflies before they get to the other end of the field. Also planting Nasturtium in between the Sprouts. Obviously netting the Sprouts will help but the less work we have to do, and the less netting we have to buy the better as we simply can't net everything.

The more diversity and more grasses and flowers we can plant, the more we can tap into this beneficial effect.

Flowers are Pretty

Another reason for diversity is that the more flowers the more interesting and pretty the field will be. Although the field is primarily for food production there is nothing to say it has to look like a boring farmers field or a drab allotment. The more diverse Flowers and Grasses the longer the flowering period will be within the field which in turn will keep the field looking better for longer. Since we have an interest in learning and understanding Wild Flowers the more different species the easier it will be to learn how to identify them. Not only this, the more flowers the less weeds and therefore less work maintaining the field. Half an acre may not sound a lot but when you have to weed it manually it becomes a massive space. Flowers planted between the vegetables will cover the bare soil and prevent weeds and since we won't mind a bit of colour in the vegetable beds we don't need to worry so much about their seeds getting into the soil. We'd much prefer Corn Flowers appearing amongst the carrots than nettles.


Another reason for having as much diversity in our plants as possible is for Wildlife reasons. We'd like to help wildlife since many species are endangered. The more birds the better as they are not only nice to see but eat insects (some of which are bad for our crops) and they make for a much better local environment. We spend an awful lot of time digging, harvesting, planting and maintaining the field for food that it is important to have an interest in our own local environment as it will help make working the field a pleasure. Helping Frogs and Toads is not only required but helping them helps us since they will eat a lot of slugs. The pond located in the field isn't there to help make a garden it is there because all animals and insects require water to drink, plus it is also it's own habitat for Dragonflies and many other insects and only increases our diversity which in turn helps our environment. 

Another purpose of the pond is that it becomes our drainage sink since the field floods and we need somewhere to send the water. If nature wants a lot of water in our field then it is better to work with nature rather than try and prevent the water from puddling. We could dig the entire field and allow the water to drain but that is too much work and we would like to keep and use the water. 

Protection and Security

Having a large diversity of flowers and plants gives us a chance of having a lot of plants suffer in extreme weathers and still allow us to attract pollinator since other flowers won't mind the adverse conditions. The diversity will also allow us to view more plants and see for ourselves the insects that are attracted which will therefore help us position flowers to protect our crops.


Different flowers and plants will have different root depths and more roots will hopefully break up the clay more and allow drainage.

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