Native Gardens & Symbiotic Plants
BIOMIMICRY: Nature is the best scientist and teacher. We can either inherently trust this spiritually, or if you are like me, you also want to prove nature logically. Spiritually is probably the least stressful way of viewing the earth because although soil science is full of "AHA that makes sense!" moments, it is very dense science. "Symbiotic" relationships between organisms are often more complex and powerful than we expect and difficult to isolate and measure in lab environments. This is why with soil science, and until recently, is "Soil Life" was excluded from major University Soil Science Literature. Soil fungi and bacteria, the basis for the Soil Food Web and all life on earth, was denied and passed over by mainstream agricultural science,
Luckily times have changed, and modern Soil Science now recognizes thousands of species of bacterial, fungal, prokaryote and arthropods that play a role in the soil health. These are the organisms we can't see with the naked eye. We only see their effects in creating "Soil Structure" (the ability of the soil to absorb water, similar to a sponge, and also let excesss water to pass right through) and "Soil Health" (the ability of soil to constantly cycle nitrogen and trace minerals in plant available form.)
The Soil Structure is a mass network of fungal strands, and bacterial "glue" (byproducts of "good" or "beneficial" fungi and bacteria.) Also, Tiny fibrous rootlets of plants interlace the soil structure and share space with soil fungi and bacteria. Fungi and bacterai in the rootzone eat sugars from the plant (sent down from leaf photosynthesis.) The fungi and bacteria use sugar exuded by plant rootlets to grow and they reciprocate by feeding the plant trace minerals absorbed from soil sand and nitrogen.
This crosssharing of essential nutrients is known as the SOIL FOOD WEB: a mutually beneficial and interdependent sharing and cycling of nutrients between plants and their soil microbes.
NATURE HATES BARE SOIL: The last thing Nature wants is Bare Soil. Look at any native New England environment and you will see plants or leaf litter covering every piece of ground. Even when disturbed, Nature will always quickly attempt to cover its ground. Without cover, the soil begins to "die" fungi and bacteria get cooked by the hot sun, and without the byproducts fungal strands and bacterial glue holding soil together, soil will erode and won't hold water during rainstorms. The Soil Food Web depends on the ground being "covered."
TRACE MINERALS Just like in our human bodies, plants need trace minerals for vigorous nervous and immune systems. In bare soil situations, the microbes which supply these micronutrients heat up and die and the plant health suffers. The lesson here is: the reason why weeds quickly grow in bare disturbed areas is to save the health of the soil.
SO WHY NATIVE PLANTS: Invasive species disrupt nature, in many ways
1) Relentless invasive vines like oriental bittersweet choke trees / shrubs to death without any natural predators
2) Deer won't eat wild rose and japanese barberry and can't travel through them either, so the plants flourish in disturbed, open areas and crowd out tree saplings so that the forest cannot reestablish.
3) Birds and rodents eat invasive berries and spread the invasive plant seeds everywhere
4) chipmunks and mice live in greater numbers in the unnatural shelter of rose and barbery brambles and may be spreading lyme disease faster than historically.
5) - Most invasive plants have bitter, toxic leaves which only insects they evolved with can digest. Our U.S. insects mostly cannot eat the invasive plant leaves, so there is less density of insects. Because birds ONLY feed their young insects, and not berries or seeds, if the insects won't eat the invasives, then invasives may be reducing wild bird populations.
As we can see, the web of interrelationships goes deep, and Native Plants help retain symbiotic relationships with the wildlife that evolved to depend on them
*Below are a couple video selections with soil scientists on the benefits of sustainable and wholistic gardening....