Creating an edible garden: a fair bit of work, but what happiness!

Flowers and vegetables in the garden.
Credit: Jardin botanique de Montréal (Lise Servant)
Fleurs et légumes au potager.
  • Fleurs et légumes au potager.
  • The soil food web
Creating an edible garden: a fair bit of work, but what happiness!

It’s such a pleasure harvesting your tomatoes, your carrots, your flowers and your herbs. Whether it’s a big kitchen garden, a smaller edible layout or a few pots on the balcony, the thing about growing your garden is, it just feels good.

Contact with plants and nature – which we’re part of – invigorates the body and calms the mind. To live means to be in connection with other forms of life that inhabit our universe.

Life engenders life

We recognize today that the key to plant productivity is linked to the diversity of species present in the ecosystem. A kitchen garden fitted with a variety of vegetable and fruit plants, brightened up with herbs and flowers, invites a host of useful organisms to the feast. Birds, butterflies, bees and bumblebees all thrive there.

But we mustn’t forget the living beings that are invisible to our eye. Many communities of microorganisms partner with plants, on both their leaves and shoots (the phyllosphere) and their underground parts (the rhizosphere). Plants are literally covered with microscopic living beings from their leaves down to their roots. Life is everywhere!

In the air and underground

Thanks to the electron microscope, we’ve discovered that leaves, stems, flowers and fruit provide the right habitat for a host of active microorganisms. Numerous species of bacteria, fungi, protozoa and arthropods abound there, ensuring protection and food for plants.

Roots – the hidden half of plants – live in the soil in the company of thousands of living beings: bacteria, algae, fungi, protozoa, nematodes, arthropods, insects, earthworms, and so on. The area surrounding the roots is a setting for intense biological activity where symbionts and predators rub shoulders. Together they make up a living complex, at one and the same time fed by the plants and essential for those plants, which depend on them to feed themselves. How?

About one-third of the sugars produced by plants are released by their roots in order to feed bacteria and mycorrhizal fungi, which in turn offer them water and essential minerals. Protozoa, nematodes and microarthropods feast on the bacteria and the mycelium of the fungi. They’re eaten in turn by bigger insects, themselves the prey of birds and small mammals.

Thus, they all take part in the aeration of the soil and in the recycling of nutrients. Together they constitute the soil’s food web.

Long live life !

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