Eco-Friendly Agriculture: Grow Your Own

Sao Miguel and the other islands are formed on volcanic rock. This is a huge advantage when it comes to the modern idea of sustainable farming or no-tilling. while this is a new idea to many farmers, actually not tilling or digging up the soil to plant seed actually increases the crop value. And the volcanic rock is full of nutrients meaning crops grow incredibly quickly. For us on the Solar Branco Eco Estate, we have taken some old agricultural land which we are currently restoring to help the wildlife here on Sao Miguel.

No pesticides. It goes without saying that to encourage wildlife onto your allotment, no longer using pesticides that kill them is the best thing you can do. With so many professional gardeners and famous public gardens now completely organic, proving it works, there is no longer any need to use chemicals on your allotment.

Wild about weeds I believe we are too quick to remove weeds from our allotments and gardens, when they’re often beautiful and have wildlife value. Bees love feeding on hawkbit and achillea weeds. You can designate a specific wild area of your allotment or garden and leave this to grow wild. On the estate we do this around the walls of the field.

Let herbs flower I let some herbs and vegetables to flower to help increases the number and diversity of flowers on our plot for pollinators.

Pests are welcome! I know this sounds counter-intuitive but bear with me. If you want to encourage beneficial insects like aphids, wasps and hoverflies, you need to make sure they have food to eat. Aphids are a pest of crops but I always leave them to it because I know that a broad bean patch full of aphids is soon going to be covered in these predators.

Pond life On our grounds we have 2 natural ponds. They might be small, but they are mighty, attracting pond skaters, dragonflies, damselflies, and frogs. You can see how much frog spawn appears in spring! Frogs are helpful because they eat slugs and snails.

Stop digging No-dig is the practice of adding nutrients through a layer of mulch – well rotted compost or manure – to the surface of soil rather than digging in. As nature attests when you see leaf litter vanish in woodland over winter, soil organisms will incorporate organic matter into the soil for you. Not digging also helps protect natural structure created by fungi, worms and other life.

Homemade compost Is there anything better? I don’t think so. Making your own compost is fun and rewarding, like a long-term science experiment at school. The process of plant debris rotting down into usable compost never fails to amaze. Homemade compost helps wildlife in so many ways. First of all, like leaf litter in the wild, it instantly creates this type of habitat for centipedes, millipedes, molluscs, worms, beetles and – if you’re lucky – hedgehogs.