How to Cultivate Abundance for People, Plants and Wildlife
In this episode, we’re going to dive into 5 pathways to abundance—abundance for people, plants, and wildlife. We picked these 5 pathways to help you get started towards creating a landscape that is filled with abundance. And to help you heal the living world around you. Because working with nature isn’t always easy—it can be hard to know where to start. But these 5 pathways give you a place to start your journey towards abundance.
The 5 pathways covered in this episode are:
- Growing perennial foods
- Working with native plants
- Building healthy soil
- Working with wildlife
- And working with your land
And to help you with each of these pathways we’ve created 5 guides—1 for each of the pathways. Click on the links above to learn more about these pathways and get access to the guides.
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When you start down each of these pathways to abundance you will be on a journey towards creating a rich, dynamic landscape.
A landscape that is filled with perennial foods, native plants, healthy soil, and wildlife.
Let’s dive into these 5 pathways to abundance but before we do if you like what you hear today, then please leave a review on Apple Podcasts or wherever else you listen. Your review will help more people find us. People like you, who want to bring these skills home, to enjoy wildlife, grow more food, and help heal our living world.
Okay, let’s get started.
Further Reading: Growing with Nature episodes and blog posts with more information about the topics covered in this episode.
- Why Native Plants Matter (And Why You Need Them)
- How to Get Started with Native Wild Vegetables
- How to Find Native Plants for Your Property
- How to Create Habitat Features for Pest Control
- Why Snags are Awesome and How to Get Started
- Sharing with Wildlife: The Best Way to Enjoy More Food
- 3 Reasons Why You Should Create a Wildlife Pond
Working with Your Land
Books and Other Resources
- Nature's Best Hope: A New Approach to Conservation That Starts in Your Yard
- Bringing Nature Home: How You Can Sustain Wildlife with Native Plants, Updated and Expanded
- The Humane Gardener: Nurturing a Backyard Habitat for Wildlife (How to Create a Sustainable and Ethical Garden that Promotes Native Wildlife, Plants, and Biodiversity)
- Native Plant Finder – National Wildlife Federation
- Audubon Society – Native Plants Database
- iNaturalist – Website and smartphone app
- Plants for a Future
Plant List: More information about some of the plants covered in this episode.
A Journey Down 5 Pathways to Abundance
I remember moving to our property—there wasn’t much here.
Just a large lawn and an even larger field.
Though we also had a large pie cherry tree and a few scattered native and non-native trees around the edges of the property.
And the soils were all silt and clay—a sticky mess in the winter and as hard as concrete in the summer.
That cherry tree produced tons of cherries but the birds got most of them. And there was a seasonal stream that flowed through a gulley in the property. But it was just flashy and eroding the soil.
But there was potential—the key was to apply the 5 pathways to abundance to start healing the land.
The first thing we did was start planting hedgerows filled with native plants around the boundary of our property.
While this work is ongoing, we’ve seen amazing results.
The native plants have supported an abundance of wildlife—it seems like every year more birds arrive.
But we also started planting perennial foods—fruit and nut trees, berries, and perennial vegetables in our food forests, hedgerows, and other growing areas. And we made sure to plant native plants around all of them.
I have a general rule that there should be at least 1 native plant within 10-feet of any non-native plant. And ideally, a cluster of them and I plant them closer if I can.
And despite the increase in birds and other wildlife, we get more food than ever before. That cherry that used to just feed the birds now provides us abundant harvests every year.
The reason is we didn’t just plant for ourselves—we planted for wildlife too. We gave them other foods—especially native plants to enjoy.
This was the first thing we did—we started by planting for wildlife.
And we also started building healthy soil. We did this by mulching all our growing areas with fall leaves or woodchips. We also planted nitrogen fixers and lots of perennial plants. And we started a worm farm and a composting system.
Recently we got chickens to help us clear grass while also fertilizing the soil to help get it ready for future plantings.
All of this has greatly improved our soils.
Areas that were once heavy silty clay soils are now filled with life and becoming dark and crumbly. We often find earthworms and mushrooms are common.
The soil has come alive.
And we’ve been working with our land—that flashy seasonal stream is slowly becoming an abundant wetland with multiple channels and ponds. Native willows, rushes, and other wetland plants are thriving.
And frogs, salamanders, ducks, geese, and even great blue herons are all visiting the new wetlands. We even had a beaver come by and say hello before moving on.
Soon we will be planting all sorts of water-loving edible plants like cattails, springbank clover, Pacific silverweed, and potentially Wapato.
We’re even creating a rich abundant blueberry island that should naturally stay acidic. We can’t wait to harvest buckets full of blueberries.
This is all possible because we decided to work with our land instead of trying to force it to be something it isn’t. That part of the land wanted to be a wetland—we observed, listened, and worked with it instead of fighting against it.
We’ve also added habitat features—snags, logs and log piles, rock piles, and a small backyard wildlife pond along with the changes to the seasonal stream. All of which have created shelter and habitat for all sorts of wildlife.
And all these changes have attracted an amazing amount of wildlife. Hummingbirds and a wide range of songbirds are common. We also see hawks, owls, herons, ducks, geese, frogs, lots of garter snakes and so many more insects. Native bees and other native pollinators become more common every year.
Coyotes are common visitors and even a weasel has shown up.
And pests such as aphids and slugs are coming into balance with their predators. And our plants are thriving and every year our harvests increase. Along with the increase in wildlife.
All of this in an area that was mostly a degraded field and lawn.
This was all achieved because we followed the 5 pathways to abundance.
We started by working with native plants to provide habitat and food for wildlife which let us work with the wildlife that calls our land home instead of against them. We also planted perennial foods and focused on building healthy soil.
And we took time to observe our land and work with it—not against it.
Each of these actions worked together to heal our living landscape. And the result is abundance for people, plants, and wildlife.
And we’re still moving forward down each of these 5 pathways. We’ve learned a lot and in this episode and future ones, I will share what has worked for us and what hasn’t.
This way you too can start your journey to cultivate abundance for people, plants, and wildlife.
Get Started with the 5 Pathways to Abundance
I wanted to share our journey so far to inspire you to dream of what’s possible on your property. But you don’t have to do it all at once.
These pathways all work together but you can pick a couple to focus on as long as you come back to the others over time.
I waited to add habitat features such as logs and rocks until after I had done a bunch of plantings. I just couldn’t do it all at once.
Here are some first steps you can take for each of the 5 pathways—and don’t forget to check out the links in the resources section to help you get started.
Growing Perennial Foods
When it comes to growing perennial foods a great first step is to plant a perennial vegetable—specifically a perennial green.
These are veggies that can replace more traditional greens like lettuce or spinach.
Some great options are:
- Kosmic Kale
- Purple tree collards
- And miner’s lettuce
Even if you just have a container garden you would be able to grow these perennial veggies. And you can easily fit them in any backyard around your existing plants.
Of course, planting a fruit tree or berry bush is another great option but these take more space and commitment than a perennial vegetable. Plus when you plant a perennial vegetable you’re shifting from an annual system such as a kitchen garden to a perennial one.
Though once you start with a perennial vegetable planting a fruit tree or berry bush is a great next step.
Working with Native Plants
The first thing you should do to start working with native plants is learning about the ones already growing on or around your property.
Try to ID them using either a native plant guide or book or an app like iNaturalist.
This is a great place to start.
See which ones stand out to you and look them up. Find out if they’re edible or a nitrogen fixer or what wildlife use them and how big they get and what sort of habitat they generally grow in.
Sites like Plants for a Future can help you determine if a plant is edible. There are other resources to help you get started that are included in the resources section.
Once you have some picked out start looking for native plant nurseries in your area or other sources of native plants. Buy some and start mixing them in around your existing plants—consider replacing some of your purely ornamental shrubs and other plants with native plants.
This is a great way to get started with native plants and in turn, you will start to see more birds and other wildlife as the native plants get established.
Building Healthy Soil
The key to building healthy soil is to keep the soil covered. Ideally with perennial plants but organic mulch like woodchips and fall leaves can work until your plants get established.
All those perennial plants and organic mulch will feed a vast array of soil life including earthworms and beneficial fungi.
So a great first step to building healthy soil is to get more plants in the ground and cover bare areas with woodchips, organic straw, or fall leaves. Over time aim to have the ground completely covered with living plants and ideally perennial plants.
This also means stop tilling.
If you do this your soil will improve and your plants will start to thrive. Your soils will be able to hold more water and nutrients will be more accessible to your plants.
Working with Wildlife
When trying to work with wildlife the first thing is to stop using chemicals to kill pests. It takes time to build up the population of predators like ladybugs. If you kill all the pests then the predators will never have a chance—and often they’re killed by the same chemicals that kill the pests.
Instead, give the predators time to show up and bring the pest into balance. Often this takes a couple of years and I know that it’s hard to wait and see your plants being damaged.
But if you wait over time the pests will become less and less of an issue.
I’ve done this with aphids, slugs, and other pests. Every year I have fewer and fewer pest issues and I see more and more of the predators that keep them in check.
But you also need to provide habitat for the predators. Do this by planting native plants, adding some rock and log piles, or even just individual logs. And a birdbath or mini-pond can all be great options too to help attract and support more wildlife.
Working with Your Land
A great first step to start working with your land is to start a simple field journal. Start observing what types of wildlife visit your property. Do any areas get extra wet after a storm or during the winter? Are there areas that dry out quickly?
What else do you observe about your property?
These notes will help guide your decisions as you move down all these 5 pathways.
Even if you just have a small yard or no yard at all you can still start to make observations that will help you figure out ways you can work with the land around you to cultivate abundance for people, plants, and wildlife.
Start Your Journey
I hope the story I shared with you has left you inspired to take some of the actions I covered in this episode.
But you don’t have to do them all—and these are just starting points to get going. Each week I will share with you a new episode that will dive into a specific topic related to one of these 5 pathways to abundance.
In the next couple of episodes, we’re going to dive into perennial vegetables, native vegetables, how to deal with compacted soil without digging, and how to attract birds.
And many more topics will be covered in future episodes.
So I hope you will tune in to future episodes and continue your journey down these 5 pathways to abundance.
You can cultivate abundance for people, plants, and wildlife.
And let’s work together to heal our living world.
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