“Social Network” may make you think of Facebook and not gardening, but the two actually have many things in common. When the term is applied to gardening it means that all the plants that occur near or around a certain plant like the same qualities – just like you and your friends. Plants grow with like minded “friends” that require the same necessities. For example they like the same soil type, soil pH or level of moisture. They like the same amount of shade, or sun, or hot, or cold.
All the plants in a social network have different personalities too. Some are bossy and take over large spaces, some are more reserved and require just a small amount of room. They vary in appearance – some are tall, some short, some think and some thin.
Photo credit: naturalengland on Visual hunt /CC BY-NC-ND
And all of these friends have different jobs too. Some hold the soil in place so everyone doesn’t wash away. Some fix that soil into something they all need by making more nitrogen, or removing heavy metals. Some create shade for others so they do not burn up when it gets hot. If a natural disaster occurs, it is the job of some plants to pave the way for all species so that they can get back to business as usual.
Photo credit: BLMOregon on Visualhunt / CC BY
As we discussed in the previous parts of the “Natural Gardening” series, planting sustainable is important. Not one of the plants in any given community are more important than any other. They all have a niche to fill. By planting species together that naturally occur together, you will be much more successful in creating a complete and low maintenance landscape. If you are trying to plant things together that do not share similar qualities, qualities they share in their “social network”, you will be doing a lot of work to make that happen successfully.