Permaculture Explained (Volume III Issue 10): Use and Value Diversity

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket

Seems sensible enough, but what does diversity actually mean and how can we value and use it?

At the Triangle Community Garden in Hitchin, we try to embrace diversity at many different levels.

Over the last 12 years we have created and developed our small community garden on the edge of a public park, from a nettle monoculture to a biodiverse attractive wildlife-friendly haven.

It’s packed full of different elements - a sensory garden, forest garden, willow maze, pond, bug hotel and a mini-orchard with different plantings to suit different conditions.

People of all ages are encouraged to tend and enjoy the garden and we run a social therapeutic horticulture programme for those with learning difficulties.

Generating income to support our activities includes the running a range of craft, food growing and wildlife workshops, hiring out our park pavilion building, running community events and hope to start a new park café/kiosk.

This all sounds wonderful doesn’t it? But diversity can include elements that you didn’t necessarily ask for and whose benefits you can’t immediately see.

Sometimes it’s hard to value the wildlife that makes lace of your cabbages, the kids that love the garden but pick your apples before they’re ripe to throw at each other…

The hard thing is finding the balance between embracing diversity and being focussed, between appealing to everyone and being able to deliver, between responding to new opportunities and spreading yourself too thinly.

For me, this is one of the hardest principles to follow as it involves constant reprogramming of our natural instincts for self-interest and the old tendency to stick-to-what-you-know.

But used in conjunction with the other principles, in particular ‘apply self-regulation and accept feedback’, it can deliver wonderful and unexpected results.

I’m not sure how well we use diversity but it‘s certainly there and we do value it, trying to be ever open to new opportunities and fresh challenges, while keeping a wary eye on obtaining that occasionally elusive yield.

Vicky Wyer, Triangle Community Garden