Work with nature

3 Ways to Work with Nature for More Abundant Harvests

Spring is here! Do you want to grow more food this year, and spend less time battling pests? Then now is time to start thinking about how you can work with nature for more abundant harvests. But where do you start? Here are 3 simple ways you can work with nature and supercharge your garden this spring!


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Working with nature is a powerful way to grow more food with less work. Essentially, nature takes over some of the work for you.

And that's not all. When you work with nature to cultivate abundance, you're also supporting wildlife and helping to heal our living world. 

But knowing where to start on this journey can be a challenge.

With spring here in the northern hemisphere, I’m sure you’re looking out at your garden and other growing areas and wondering what to do to take things up a notch—to make your growing areas more abundant and productive, and have less trouble with pests.

How do you go beyond planting vegetables and truly work with nature?

While there are many ways you can work with nature, here are 3 simple ways you can start this spring—even if you're stuck home.

3 Simple Ways to Work with Nature this Spring

  • 1
    Plant a diversity of flowers.
  • 2
    Mulch your planting areas.
  • 3
    Add wildlife habitat features.

Each of these 3 methods will help you work with nature to cultivate abundance for people, plants and wildlife on your property.

But they will also have the added benefit of helping you deal with garden pests. All 3 methods will attract predators that will eat common garden pests such as slugs and aphids. If you want to learn more ways to deal with garden pests without toxic chemicals, make sure to grab your free and easy-to-print cheat-sheet to get started!

Plant a Diversity of Flowers to Work with Nature

Sometimes flowers are just seen as something you plant for beauty.

For me, adding beauty to my property is a great reason to plant flowers. (I try to add more flowers every year!)

But it turns out they provide much more than “just” adding beauty.

So what do flowers bring to an area? And why are they key to working with nature on your property?

Well, I’m sure you know that flowers support all sorts of pollinators. Bees, butterflies, and more.

As I write this, there’s a little hummingbird outside my window visiting all the red flowering currants growing in my front hedgerow.

But did you know that many pollinators also eat pest insects? Even hummingbirds do!

I’ve watched hummingbirds zipping around my raspberries when they got a little overripe, eating up fruit flies.

One amazing type of pollinator that will also help you deal with pests is the parasitoid wasp. Most of these wasps are so small you’ve probably never seen them.

Just imagine a wasp so small that it can lay its eggs inside an aphid!

As an adult, the wasps rely on nectar and pollen. But they lay their eggs in or on other insects such as aphids. This makes them a great ally in the battle against garden pests.

But you need to plant a diversity of flowers to attract them to your property. By that I mean 12+ types of flowers.

Wild Tip:

Planting native wildflowers will support even more insects than non-native flowers by supporting specialist insects that rely on a small number of native flowers. Without native plants, these picky insects can’t survive. Check out the blog post Why Native Plants Matter (And Why  You Need Them) to learn more.

Supporting beneficial critters is an excellent reason to work with nature by planting a diversity of flowers on your property.

But when you plant a diversity of flowers, you’re also supporting a diversity of soil life. Each plant releases a range of substances from their roots known as exudates.

These exudates feed soil life, which will steadily improve your soil over time. And this, in turn, will boost your plants.

Planting a diversity of flowers can jumpstart this process.

Wild Tip:

Some flowers, like lupines and clovers, are nitrogen fixers. These amazing plants will take things a step further and help you build soil by teaming up with soil bacteria to take nitrogen from the air and add it to the soil.

The key is to work with nature by planting a diversity of flowers. The exact varieties don’t matter as long as you plant a diversity of flowers (12+ types).

Summary - Plant a Diversity of Flowers

Growing a diversity of flowers is a great way to work with nature for more abundant harvests. Here are some of the benefits flowers bring:

  1. Support pollinators.
  2. Attract predatory insects that will help control garden pests.
  3. Support a diversity of soil life, which will help improve your soil.
  4. Some flowers can fix nitrogen (lupines, clover, vetch, etc.) which will help your other plants grow.
  5. Edible flowers can provide extra harvests for your family and community.

Homebound? Here are some links to wildflower seed mixes you can get without having to leave home. The first 2 are general mixes sold on Amazon, while the other 2 links provide more options for you to pick and choose which flowers you want to grow.

  1. Wildflower seeds – Amazon
  2. Wildflower seeds – Amazon
  3. Flowers for Beneficial Insects – Adaptive Seeds
  4. Flower Seeds – West Coast Seeds

Mulch Your Planting Areas

Work with nature to create abundance

I always mulch my planting areas. Often this is by spreading wood chips, straw, or fall leaves. But you can also grow living mulch. The key is to just keep the ground covered—you don’t want to see bare ground.

Mulching your planting areas is a great way to work with nature this spring. If you’re not familiar with mulch and mulching, it’s really simple.

Just take organic material like wood chips, straw, fall leaves, etc. and spread it around your plants. I like to aim for a minimum of 3 inches (7.6 cm) of mulch around my plants.

Wild Tip:

If you’re dealing with grass, you may want to try sheet-mulching. This is where you put a layer of cardboard or paper down first and then add your mulch on top of it.

So how does mulching your planting areas help you work with nature? Here are some of the great ways that mulch helps you work with nature:

  1. Mulching promotes beneficial fungi, which will improve your soil and support your plants.
  2. It will help keep your soil moist, which saves water, helps your plants deal with drought, and promotes soil life.
  3. As mulch breaks down, it will improve your soil by adding organic material to the soil.
  4. Mulch provides habitat for all sorts of beneficial insects and other critters.

This is why I always make sure to mulch my new growing areas. Mulch from outside sources can be great for getting started. But in the long run, it’s best to grow your mulch in place as much as possible.

This can be from fall leaves that naturally mulch your growing areas each fall, or from the yearly chop-and-drop of spent vegetables, flowers, and other plants.

Coppicing or pollarding trees and shrubs is a great way to practice chop-and-drop on a large scale.

Wild Tip:

When you prune your fruit trees and berry bushes, you can use all the removed branches as mulch! Just cut them up to a size that works for you and spread them around on the ground.

You can also use living mulch, which is where you grow a variety of plants to make sure they fully cover the ground. Hint—grow a diversity of flowers as a living mulch! Just make sure to use short flowers around your vegetables!

Creeping plants like strawberries can make great living mulches.

Regardless of where you get your mulch from, just make sure to mulch your growing areas. The benefits are well worth the work!

Tips for Getting Mulch

Homebound? Here are some tips for you to get mulch if you’re stuck at home and need help.

  1. Try the site Chip Drop to have wood chips dropped off at your place without needing to leave. Should be easy to practice social distancing with this option.
  2. If you have pasture fields, let a section get tall and then cut it down at the base to get straw/hay. You want long, thick strands so the resulting mulch won’t matt down and smother your plants. Cut before the plants go to seed. A scythe or sickle is great for this.
  3. Prune any plants that need it and use the cuttings as mulch.
  4. Grow a thick living mulch—flowers!

Add Wildlife Habitat Features to Your Growing Areas

Log pile for habitat

Logs, branches and rocks can all be used to make habitat features for wildlife. Here is a log surrogate that uses small branches/logs to mimic a single large log.

While mulch and flowers are great ways to attract beneficial insects and predators, you can also build wildlife habitat features using logs, branches and rocks.

Log surrogates, brush piles, rock piles, and snags are all great options. Each of these will provide places for various wildlife to hide in and take shelter, and you can place habitat features strategically to help keep pests in balance.

In my area, garter snakes will often hide in these habitat features. These harmless snakes are great predators that eat all sorts of garden pests.

This is why I recently built a log surrogate right next to my kitchen garden. The more garter snakes I can attract to my garden, the better!

Wild Tip:

Concerned about attracting poisonous snakes too close to your home? Place these features away from trails or places where people will congregate.

But there are many more beneficial critters (that love to eat garden pests!) that will hang out in these habitat features. Frogs, toads, salamanders, and lizards all need places to take shelter.

Adding water features is another great type of habitat feature. A wildlife pond can provide great habitat for all kinds of wildlife—and even a small bird bath will bring all sorts of birds to your property!

Building habitat features for wildlife is a fantastic way to work with nature and keep pests under control by attracting their predators.

Tips to Create Wildlife Habitat Features

Building habitat features is a great thing to do if you’re stuck at home. All you need to do is walk around your property and look for downed branches and logs. Leave the large ones, but collect small ones that you can easily carry.

Then just start building piles out of them. Keep the bigger branches/logs on the bottom and the smaller stuff on top. The bigger you can make the piles, the better—but small ones will help too!

You can use rocks in the same way—just make sure to leave some gaps so wildlife can get inside the piles. A mix of logs and rocks is a great option!

If you don’t have a lot of branches, logs or rocks, you can also use a mix of smaller branches and cut plant material like hay/straw to make habitat features. These won’t last as long, but they’ll still provide shelter from the summer heat for wildlife!

Work with Nature this Spring

work with nature to boost your wild homestead

When I planted this evergreen huckleberry, I added mulch all around it and a nice log and stump pile behind it. There are various flowers growing nearby including nitrogen fixing lupines and flowering shrubs. This is an example of how you can put these 3 methods together.

These 3 ways to work with nature to cultivate abundance for people, plants, and animals are just the start.

Here are 3 more ways you can work with nature this spring:

  1. Plant perennial vegetables.
  2. Plant a food forest.
  3. Plant your garden as a polyculture.

But don’t worry about doing everything listed here this spring. Pick 1 method that works for you to get started. Then if you feel up for it, try another one of these 6 methods.

Just start small and build steadily overtime.

I always try to add something new to my property each year. This year, for example, I started adding log surrogates to mimic large logs. I have plans to add large brush piles in a year or 2.

As long as you keep growing and keep working with nature, your property will steadily improve.

And all these methods will help reduce your pest issues.

Which of these 3 methods is your favorite? Leave a comment below with your answer.

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Daron is a restoration ecologist, lifelong gardener, and founder of Growing with Nature. He created this site to help people enjoy wildlife, grow food, and help heal our living world. He has managed the restoration program for a local non-profit, and he’s applying principles of restoration and permaculture to transform his property in western Washington to forests, wetlands, hedgerows, food forests, and permaculture gardens. He holds a Masters in Environmental Studies and an Associate of Applied Science degree in Water Resources. He loves sharing the joy of growing food with his two beautiful children.

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