Today, we have a number of gardening philosophies springing up like the weeds that we love to hate. Some are stand-alone philosophies while others are somewhat intertwined. The one thing they have in common is that they are all eco-friendly.
If you are a seasoned gardener, you are probably familiar with some of these new terms and what they mean. If you are a new gardener, you may be struggling with them, and which to follow in your garden.
Below, I will try to give you a short overview of the most used new terms and let you decide which philosophy or combination of philosophies best fits your ideas for the ideal garden.
• Permaculture gardeners expect higher yields with less effort by doing as nature does and working with nature instead of against it. For example, this practice includes mulching by using dead plants from the garden, recycling food scraps into compost and depending on natural predators.
• Polyculture, according to writer Toby Hemenway, is the practice of planting a community of interrelated, interdependent plants, mimicking the complex relationships that are found between plants in nature. In his book, Gaia’s Garden, Hemenway uses the example of a vegetable garden in which you can eat almost continually from different varieties of plants maturing at different times. The faster growing plants protect the tender ones from the sun and the thickness of the plantings virtually eliminate weeds and functions as a living mulch.
• Sustainability has become almost a gardening cliché. It means different things to different people, but it all boils down to growing beautiful plants while using fewest resources. Besides the usual reliance on natural organic fertilizers and pest control measures, sustainable gardeners also look at the resources used from every aspect of gardening, even the amount of energy expended and raw materials used to make the tools you use and the distance plants had to be transported from the nursery.
• Slow Gardening is the new gardening philosophy that I like best. Mississippi garden writer Felder Rushing is a very strong advocate of this philosophy. He even wrote a book on slow gardening. Slow gardeners reduce repetitive chores so that they can enjoy their gardens instead of being slaves to it. They focus on seasonal rhythms and local conditions by planting what nature wants to grow in their space, rather than planting what they want to grow.
Slow gardeners don’t plant all at once. They space out their chores, developing a long term, relaxed approach. Many plant raised beds and containers all year to reduce gardening fatigue. Rushing recommends trying untested plants in small spaces while practicing “right plant, right place” for the rest of the garden. This means choosing pest-resistant plants that are well adapted to your local climate and soils.
Rushing also offers suggestions for what to do with the time you save by slow gardening. If the photos of his garden in the book are any indication, this philosophy works.
Like life itself, gardening is what you make it. You can over think it by strictly following the philosophy of the month, or you can take the relaxed approach of slow gardening, or you can just keep doing what you are doing if it works for you.