Integration is the essence of resilient ecological and social communities. An environment whose wellbeing thrives consists of relationships that are mutually supportive and recognise all living organisms as valued participants with a role to play.
No one can do it alone we all need others to motivate, support, guide, teach, encourage, care and provide for us at different times.
In Permaculture we view how organisms contribute to the holistic composition of community or ecosystem through the many interactions they perform and synergies that exist.
A garden that is rich in diversity will support a network of creatures and plants to coexist and reach their potential by creating a balanced ecosystem based on cooperation and mutually beneficial interactions. This will eliminate much of the work for us as the plants and creatures provide for each other’s needs. E.g Plants feed earthworms by shedding their leaves, flowers, and twigs. Worms decompose this garden litter to create new rich organic matter to feed the plants and soil life. Worms tunnel within our soil to create passages for nutrient, water and aeration to flow while enhancing soil structure. This supports the root structure and health of plants as it makes available water and nutrients for the roots to absorb without too much effort. We can support the work of decomposers such as worms by adding mulch to our gardens providing habitat and food for worms.
The possible interactions and relationships that exist in our backyard range in complexity as those in social communities. Just like human friendships – plants and creatures function to their capacity when they are part of a culture that accepts and desires the best for them.
In permaculture, relationships that provide mutual benefits while meeting the needs of and using another’s products are called guilds.
An example of a simple guild is demonstrated by the ‘Three Sisters’ a Native American planting tradition of Corn, Beans and Squash.
At Riverwood PS we have planted corn, beans and zucchini (squash is commonly used in preference to zucchini, but we have used zucchini as it was available). This is the first time we have planted the combination, it is a learning experience for the students at Riverwood PS – we make observations each time we are in the garden checking the progress of the plants growth.