How to Diversify Your Garden

Having a wide variety of plants in the landscape reaps a lot of dividends for the gardener.

Vegetable Garden

Vegetable Garden

One of the secrets to a successful garden, says master gardener Paul James, is diversity.

"In my view, a landscape that combines a diverse mix of plants of all kinds, including weeds, is much healthier than one in which there are only a few plant species," Paul says. "My landscape features several hundred species of plants, whereas in the average landscape, there may be only a few dozen or so." In one bed alone there are more than 65 different species represented, and with diversity came a number of key benefits. For instance, Paul rarely has to spray for pests and diseases.

"In fact, in the last three years, I haven't sprayed anything on anything. That's because diverse plantings attract all kinds of insects, both beneficial one and the ones that eat plants. And the former help keep the latter in check." Diverse plantings also encourage beneficial fungi and bacteria, both of which have the ability to attack and control their more destructive cousins.

Another great thing about diversity is it's easy to create. Instead of planting huge sweeps of the same plant species, Paul suggests mixing things up a bit. In fact, consider mixing things up a lot. Remember a group of plants in the same species is basically a botanical vacuum.

"So do yourself a favor, experiment with diversity in the landscape," Paul says. "After all it's not only effective in controlling all manner of pests and disease, but it's also a lot of fun."

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