Do you feel inspired after watching the Chelsea Flower Show? You may be wishing for a well-designed, immaculate garden with well-behaved, colorful plants and beautiful foliage. The gardens and flowers at Chelsea are very well maintained, but they require regular fertilizers as well as pesticides and herbicides.
There is another option. You can cultivate a natural, low-maintenance garden for your family that is good for them.
Back to the Wild
Wild chamomile teasel. Niki Lawrence
A wildflower meadow is a great way to keep your garden looking natural, low-maintenance, and beautiful. Perennial wildflowers are a great way to get a return year after year. They prefer poorer soils because it reduces grass growth. Otherwise, the flowers tend to compete with them. If you want to reduce the soil’s nutrition, remove the topsoil before planting. Another option is to plant wildflower annuals that can be grown in richer soil.
Avoid collecting seeds of plants that are growing wild, as this will seriously deplete nature’s seed bank. Since the 1930s, the number of wildflower meadows is down alarmingly to just 2% of what it was. It is better to consult a wildflower seed provider for advice on the right seed mix. Native species are more likely to self-seed and will support wildflower regeneration.
We sometimes don’t like our neighbors, and we long to live in a peaceful environment. Allelopathy is a phenomenon where some plants send toxic chemicals that inhibit the growth of nearby plants.
Black Walnut is an isolationist.
For example, black walnut trees produce their herbicide called juglone. The tree excretes it into the soil. This can cause yellowing and wilting of nearby plants and even kill them. Several species, including cabbages, tomato, potato, apple, and yew, are sensitive to juglone. You should, therefore, avoid planting these plants near black walnuts.
Some plant species encourage the growth and development of other plants. Plants of the pea family, for instance, can improve soil by using the bacteria in their roots. This bacteria transforms atmospheric nitrogen into a form that can be absorbed by plants, thereby promoting the growth of nearby plants.
By repelling insects, some plants can be beneficial to their neighboring plants. Planting onions with carrots will inhibit carrot flies. Or, planting french beans with cabbages will deter aphids. Companion planting is the practice of cultivating these plants. If you want your garden to flourish, you should choose neighborly plants.
Scientists are also exploring the signals that plants emit. Research has shown certain species produce odors when they encounter pests. This is to repel pests or attract other insects which naturally repel pests. Plants in the cabbage family produce isothiocyanate – a mustard-smelling chemical that repels some types of aphids.
Myrtenal, an aromatic chemical released by some plants, has a similar insect-repelling effect. Myrtenal is a chemical that smells like pine trees. It’s found in plants with aromatic scents such as thyme. Growing these herbs in the garden will not only provide you with great ingredients for your kitchen but also natural pesticides.
Wildflowers can also be used to help support the declining bee population. Many cultivated plants have pollen- and nectar-producing organs that are defective, and they may have multiple petals that block pollinator access. This isn’t good for ecosystems.
Do not think of bees in your garden as pests, but rather watch them at work. The way bees stimulate the pollen cells of different flowers to increase pollen release is fascinating. This process is called buzz pollination or sonication.
Young bees, and even bumblebees, must learn this process. They need to grasp the pollen organs and then quickly move their wing muscle to produce a much higher vibration than they use for flight. The right vibration stimulates pollen release. Buzz pollination is a special feature of certain flowering plants, like potato and tomato flowers.
It is easy to maintain and relaxing to cultivate a natural garden. As it grows, you’ll have more time to enjoy the wonders of nature.