Restoring your own garden
To turn your own garden into a balanced ecosystem, you don't have to be an expert. The best advice, according to Bor, is to just be patient. Restoring balance takes time, so give your garden the time it needs to grow. Start small and focus on something where you can easily make a difference. Even if you have a small garden, you can make a big difference. But restoring your garden according to the principles of permaculture should, above all, be fun. "A garden should be a place where you can have fun. A place where you can create your own paradise. Permaculture is all about letting go of certain beliefs. Beliefs that weeds need to be removed, grass needs to be cut and borders need to be uncovered. Once you let go of these kinds of beliefs, you will soon start asking yourself: why do we design our gardens the way we do?"
1: The wind is your biggest enemy
Bor: "In the Netherlands we are used to flat land, so we also lay out flat gardens. It is a big misconception that we have to level our gardens. Go to a nearby forest and you will never see a flat terrain. In fact, this is a big eye-opener for many people: wind is the biggest enemy in the growth of trees, shrubs and plants. The less resistance a plant faces, the more vigorous its growth will be. A height difference of about half a meter can already create different vegetation. So create the height differences of nature in your garden. Shelter from the wind follows and plants can grow."
2: Weeds are good
Bor: "That we see weeds as something bad that must be removed is one of the biggest misconceptions. Weeds can actually tell you a lot about the condition of your soil. Thistle, for example, an undesirable species, comes up when your soil is fertile but too compact. So that plant is working to give the soil a little more air. Each wild plant has its own function to restore the soil. Over the years, the wild plants that appear will change. When one function ends, another weed with a new function takes over. This continues until the soil is restored and then the weed dominance will decrease." So it's better to choose not to remove weeds. Another strategy is to sow things that will take over the dominance.
3: Get rid of the organic waste bin
Bor: "Don't throw away your garden waste. After all, that also has a function. A tree will drop its weight in leaves multiple times during its life. Purely to feed itself. So we should not rake those leaves away, but keep them within the ecological system of the garden! Nature tends to always cover bare ground with things like wildflowers or weeds. Making sure the soil is covered prevents weeds from growing. Rake things like leaves, wood chips and cut grass toward the edges of your garden and make sure the soil is covered. This not only stops weeds from growing, but also nourishes the soil, creating a balanced soil for plants to grow on. In addition, garbage attracts many insects and birds." With this in mind, it is better to leave dead flowers be in the winter instead of cutting them down, they are an important source of food for birds and insects.
4: Try the no-dig method
Bor: "We don't know any better than that a farmer plows his land, and we do the same in our (vegetable) gardens. But in doing so, you interrupt the soil each time and create a lot of turmoil. And that while soil life is full of helpers that are essential for a healthy garden. The new way to maintain your vegetable garden is the so-called "no-dig method": instead of completely digging up your garden, you cover the soil with a thick layer of compost and then a layer of mulch - organic material such as leaves, wood chips or tree bark that keeps the soil nourished and weeds away. That way, without digging, you can sow or plant in the same soil over and over again. It leads to better soil and a nice bonus is that it's a lot less labor intensive than weeding."
5: Water = life
Bor: "Water is life. For your plants as well as insects and birds. A well-balanced garden should contain some form of water. Water attracts a lot of life and creates a lot of life." Planting is the easiest and most important way to keep water in the garden - in fact, trees, shrubs and plants retain water and thus maintain groundwater levels. Another option for bringing more water into your garden is to disconnect the downspout. Instead of running the rainwater into the sewer system, let it flow directly into the garden. Dig small ditches to your borders or direct the water to a pond. "It always amazes me that once you build a pond, a few weeks later it will be filled with frogs. It has tremendous ecology appeal. So do something with water in your garden. If your garden is small, you may not have room for a pond, but you can also dig a container in the ground and get started with that. Even in small ways you can make a big difference."
6: Lawns and tiled patios are not easy
Bor: "With our gardens, we often think it's easy to build a large lawn and a tiled patio. However, most of the work in the garden comes from those two things. Tiles require a lot of maintenance in the form of removing green stains and weeds between the tiles. And a lawn takes an enormous amount of energy to keep it looking good. Seeding, mowing and watering will keep you busy every week in the summer. Having a green mowed lawn is purely a cultural mentality we are stuck in. Why can't grass grow tall with lots of diversity in it? Try to mow your lawn as little as possible while keeping it comfortable for your situation. Accept the fact that buttercups and dandelions will grow. That's actually a good sign!"