Nature grows from her strengths. It’s one of the reasons why natural ecosystems are so productive and achieve their goals!

Gardeners and farmers don’t do it enough. Even though it’s the easiest way to achieve our goals!

Imagine you bought a takeaway café

The business was popular with locals, well equipped with all the usual deep fat fryers, grills, milkshake makers, and refrigerators, and had two part-time staff who were good at their job.

The accounts showed that the business was doing OK, but you reckoned you could turn over a better profit.

What would be the sensible thing to do?

Gut the premises, change the décor and staff, get rid of the deep fat fryer and a lot else, and buy a pizza oven.

OR

Get to know the business first.

Work side-by-side with the original owners for a couple of weeks. Learn from the staff – what works well, or could be done better. Take an inventory of the machinery and equipment. What’s in good condition? What needs replacing? Quiz customers about what they like and dislike about the café…

Then, with this information under your belt, start making changes, building on the existing strengths of the business.

Which approach would be more economical? Less risky? Less work?

Yes, you’re right – the second option!

That’s why most switched-on food growers, businesses and community organisations and ‘Nature’ use this ‘strength-based approach’.

Nature sets her goals based on the environmental and climatic conditions at any particular location and modifies her goals as conditions change. Using her intimate knowledge and understanding of the patterns of sun and shade, soil moisture levels, prevailing winds… It’s not necessarily a conscious decision, but it lets Nature view each situation realistically and looks for opportunities to complement and support existing strengths and capacities.

A walk through any native bush brings home to us how Nature matches plants and animals to their growing conditions. Species change as the microclimate, soil, and drainage and other environmental conditions change. These aren’t just landscape-scale patterns. Look at how mosses prefer growing on the shady side of a tree and how a small hollow provides habitat for plants preferring moister conditions.

We don’t generally grow from our strengths

We give ourselves an up-hill-battle, choosing instead to try to change our landscapes to meet our goals.

A better option is to develop our goals using the existing strengths of our land.

Whether you are doing a farm plan, designing a new garden or retrofitting an old one – get to know your growing conditions. You’ll find constraints but also hidden opportunities…

How to get to know your growing conditions

By mapping, for instance, the patterns of sun and shade, your soil, and areas sheltered from the wind. There are lots of resources available to help you, but we think they are overly complicated and therefore take too long to do.

That’s why we developed the GrowMapFront Cover of GrowMap - Key to growing food that looks after itself Let me quickly share my story

I totally underestimated the strangle-hold my main paddock grass – Bracharia decumbins – would have on almost everything I tried to grow, and how the strong south-east trade winds dried out my country.

Nor did I  look closely enough at the changes in the physical environment within the property. For example, there is one section of the orchard, where I have planted and replanted a succession of expensive grafted citrus trees, blaming poor planting stock.

If I had looked closely at my soil, I would have realised how hard and compacted it was. If I had done a GrowMap I wouldn’t have had such a hard time trying to achieve my goals!

With an intimate understanding of your growing conditions, you choose crops and ecological support species that grow well. You grow plants in their preferred habitat niche, and can use your GrowMap to improve your garden and farm.