Mutualism in the Garden
We’ve been having a little bit of trouble in the garden. And when I say ‘little,’ I truly mean no-big-deal…
As you can see, we have a jungle of veggies in one of our many garden plots and they all appear to be lusciously happy! This ‘trouble’ I speak of should be considered less of a complaint and more of a ‘cool-thing-to-show-people-about-mutualism-and-the-enabling-organic-use-of-space.’ I should say that our Stockholm gardens have been nurtured daily by ourselves or by our friendly neighbors when we’re out of town. AND we’ve planned all of our gardens with companion species in mind.
Companion species are plants or animals that have been found to mutually aid one another. Where the ancient knowledge of species companionship and/or mutualism came from is beyond me. Most likely it came from your grandparents or their grandparents (or their grandparents) who had spent enough time in the garden to noticed, “Hey! The fennel AND the broccoli grew MUCH better this year when they were grown next to each other rather than last year when they were individually planted by themselves.’
In order to fully grasp the companion species concept we sort of have to set aside our Darwinian belief of ‘survival of the fittest’ and think more along the lines of Kropotkin’s rule of thumb: ‘greater diversity and dynamics are better for the survival of ALL’ rather than putting all our eggs into one basket.
Anyhow, back to the ‘trouble’… We’ve had some black aphids that we’ve found to, not only be pest species but, have their own mutualistic relationships as well! (picture)
Aphids and ants help each other out. The aphids suck the sugars from our absolutely beautiful garden plants and secretes a sugar that the ants eat. The ants, in turn, provide some sort of protection for the aphids and their kin (perhaps against ladybugs and the like?). It’s kind of like Darth Vader and the Emperor in Star Wars or the pact between Sauron and the Orcs in Lord of the Rings.
Luckily! We have our own mutualism going on.(Picture)
Today I found this wonderful spider dining on aphids. Notice where she decided to set up camp. This is one of our Krasse flowers (Swedish for Nasturtium) which tend to be fantastic at mutually helping just about ALL of your garden veggies. Two weeks ago, this picture wouldn’t have been possible. Big the growth of the flower leaf has spatially enabled a livable home for a spider that is now mutually aiding and protecting our garden plants. Thanks so much lil’ guy!