A Healing Tree entry: 

Whether you have an already established garden, or are just in the beginning stages of understanding permaculture, a main component of any successful farm or garden is biodiversity.  The right birds, bugs, microbes and even fungi will enhance your garden’s defenses against infestations.  

Let’s talk first about birds.  The Cedar Waxwing, otherwise known as Cankerbird for its voracious appetite for cankerworm or tent caterpillars, is a great avian-partner in farming.  It’s also a beautiful creature with a lovely singing voice that will only compliment your current bird population.  And in working hard to attract the Cedar Waxwing, you’ll attract other useful birds who will eat, poop (fertilize) and sing.  

Cankerbird truly enjoys a feast of worm, but what attracts them is fruit.  Fruit at the feeder or fruit that has dried on the bush or tree.  This is why I encourage everyone to plant at least one form of mulberry on their property and the use of blackberries and raspberries in their hedge-rows.  These also provide a diversion away from other fruits you may wish to protect.  Also consider nice seedy plants and grasses which offer a food source and habitat for ground-dwelling birds.  

Insects may also be encouraged through the appropriate insectary plantings, keeping in mind to examine multiple functions of a plant before choosing to include it in the mix.  Mulberry again, offers a nice habitat to insects, and the blossoms attract helpful bees, predatory wasps, spiders  and lady-beetles.  One the ground, consider members of the Apiaceae family (fennel, dill); clovers and yarrow, and low-growing rosemary; catmint and other composite flowers which are not only rich in nectar, but make a nice habitat for beetles and other ground-dwelling insects.

Though the snow is still thick over your garden beds, this is the time to begin designing your matrices.   Be thinking always about multiple uses and which insects and birds this plant attracts.  Examine the roots of the plant and consider their function and time of the year most nutrients are taken up.  Does the plant hold nutrients in its leaves (Can it be composted in place?)?  Are certain microbes attracted to the roots of this plant that might benefit the health of another plant (consider the relationship between blueberries and members of the Ericaceae family)?  Does this plant like acidic or basic soil-types?  Is it drought-resistant?  You get the idea.  

And remember, this is an ecosystem and it will balance itself, given time.  If you see certain plantings are not making it or are being “crowded out,” then nature has just given you some valuable information to consider next winter.

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