Happy Interdependence Day!

Rita's Monthly Gardening Tips,  July 4, 2015

A healthy garden is the home of many species of flora and fauna. All these species are interconnected and dependent on one another for their survival. One example of nature’s food cycle in our garden is that the sun and soil provide food to the green plants, which are eaten by aphids, which are eaten by lady beetles, which are eaten by spiders, which are eaten by songbirds, which are eaten by hawks, which when they die are eaten by decomposing creatures such as turkey vultures and worms. Then the nutrients are returned to the soil so the cycle can begin again.

Interdependence is the mutual reliance among two or more groups. In relationships, interdependence is the degree to which members of the group are mutually dependent on the others. This concept differs from a dependent relationship, where some members are dependent and some are not. What is our relationship with nature? The more we realize how much we are part of the interconnectedness of nature, the healthier we will both be. One basic relationship we have with plants is that we breathe in the oxygen plants create and the plants absorb the carbon dioxide we exhale for their needs. Like a business partnership, we count on the other to do its part. In nature there are no written contracts, no memoranda of understandings, just an unstated lease on life that both sides depend on.

Bees and flowers have a perfect system of mutual dependence. The bee receives nectar and pollen, and in exchange the flower receives pollination. Inserting our needs into this relationship, we get fruits and vegetables for our dinner table from pollinated flowers capitalizing on the efforts of both the bee and the flower. In addition, once the honey bee has made honey to feed its young, we can take that, too. This is where we think long and hard about how to give back to the bees, such as planting flowers that provide nectar for them.

How can we improve our interconnection with nature? Borrowing the medical profession’s guiding principle, the Hippocratic Oath, we can start with the idea of doing no harm. The most important practice we can employ is to eliminate pesticides and other harsh chemicals from our homes and yards. For less toxic methods in dealing with pest problems, see: http://www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/PMG/menu.homegarden.html

To go beyond doing no harm and enlisting practices to actively benefit nature, we can do things such as growing flowers that bloom throughout the year that provide food sources to bees, birds, and butterflies. Add a source of water for these creatures, such as shallow saucers of water and a birdbath. Plant bushes and trees to give wildlife a place to take cover from bad weather or predators and places to raise their young. Learn which creatures live in your area, and do what you can to provide a healthful habitat for them. In exchange, they will provide you with food, beauty, natural control of harmful pests, and a healthful cycle of life. For more ideas on how to benefit nature, see:

http://www.xerces.org/pollinator-resource-center/

Here are more examples of food chains in nature:

  • Butterfly – small birds – fox
  • Carrots – rabbit – snake – hawk
  • Dandelions – snail – frog – bird – fox
  • Dead plants – centipede – robin
  • Decayed plants – worms – birds – hawk
  • Fruits – bats – eagles
  • Grass – cow – man
  • Grass – deer – hawk
  • Grass – grasshopper – frog – snake – hawk
  • Grass – prairie dogs – coyotes
  • Grass – rabbit – snake – owl – hawk
  • Grass – snail – bird – fox
  • Herring – salmon – bear
  • Juniper berries – rabbit – fox
  • Leaves – caterpillar – birds – snake
  • Nuts – squirrels – hawk
  • Oak leaf – caterpillar – bird
  • Plants – mice – badgers – bobcats
  • Plants – deer – mountain lion

The more we learn about how we are an important part of the interconnection of nature, the more we can find ways to do no harm and start looking for ways to benefit nature as much as it benefits us.

Happy Interdependence Day and Happy Gardening!