Biodiversity is short for biological diversity and embraces all plants, animals, insects, pollinators, etc. It recognizes the importance of genetic variation within species on which survival and evolution depend. Biodiversity is defined as species richness or the number of species in an area and should also include structural complexity — the assortment and variety of plant growth habits and structures in the garden. If your garden has a high level of biodiversity, the garden will be more stable, resilient, and adaptable. There should be more beneficial insects and pollinators, less disease pressure, better soil nutrients, and better fruit/veggie production. There are many ways to increase biodiversity:

  • Incorporate companion planting which is using plant partnerships to improve the overall ecosystem of the garden and creating a well-balanced environment in which all organisms thrive. Pair plants so that one provides a benefit to the other.
  • Choose open pollinated seeds or plants. Open pollinated plants are more genetically diverse. While hybrids have their benefits, as stated in this Seed Savers Exchange blog, open varieties conserve genetic diversity and prevent the loss of unique varieties.
  • Remove as much lawn and turf as possible to introduce more perennials, shrubs, and trees. This will increase your horizontal layers and support more insects, birds, and wildlife thus increasing biodiversity. An easy way to remove turf is the “lasagna” method or sheet mulching. There are many articles and videos about this on the internet.
  • Protect insects overwintering in your garden. Clean up your garden in late spring when most insects have already emerged. Wait until nighttime temperatures are consistently 50 to 55 degrees before you cut back old stems, deadhead old flowers, and remove leaves.
  • Add features and plants to your garden that attract and support butterflies, birds, and hummingbirds. Here is a free, downloadable publication by Virginia Cooperative Extension Master Gardeners entitled For the Birds, Butterflies and Hummingbirds: Creating Inviting Habitats.
  • Add water to your garden for birds and wildlife. Add a bird bath, pond, stream, or rain garden. Here is an article from the Pennsylvania State Extension on how to add a water feature.
  • Eliminate the use of insecticides, pesticides, and chemicals on your property. This includes those services that come by your house to spray for interior and exterior bugs as well as mosquito control. These chemicals, regardless if labeled “organic,” can harm beneficial insects, pollinators, and birds.
  • Add native trees, shrubs, and hedges to your property to increase biodiversity. These offer shelter and nesting areas and many also feed pollinators and birds.
  • Keep the dead tree on your property, if it will not cause harm to humans or the house, to provide homes for wildlife. Dead trees (called snags) can serve woodpeckers and provide good perches for hawks and owls. Don’t remove it if it can support wildlife.
  • In the fall, save the leaves. Either add to the compost pile, shred or bag but put them back in your garden beds to add nutrients and organic matter. Building up the soil and soil organisms increases biodiversity.
  • Compost and or start a compost pile. This is nature’s way of feeding the soil organisms and adding nutrients back. Supporting soil organisms increases biodiversity.
  • Add “homes” for the wildlife in your garden such as bird houses, toad homes, and insect hotels.
  • Save garden seeds and support organizations that save seeds. By making an effort to save seeds, we preserve genetic diversity among plants and we preserve heritage and heirloom plants.