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Author Topic:   WHY IS GARDENING SO MUCH WORK?
Harpyr
Moderator

Posts: 1457
From: sleepy Rocky Mountain village
Registered: Dec 2002

posted April 23, 2004 04:40 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Harpyr     Edit/Delete Message
This is an exerpt from Toby Hemeningway's book, which happens to bear the same name as this forum.

The two highlights are mine. When I was typing this I was thinking how ridiculous it is for humanity to struggle to do something that is so converse to the pattern that has been established for literally millions of years. Talk about a waste of energy. As soon as we turn our backs the system will inevitably revert back to what it had been doing before we showed up and decided to go comepletely against the grain. Talk about a waste of energy.
Wouldn't it be more efficient to spend our time and energy trying to work with the momentum of millions of years of evolution?


Okay, so here it is-

quote:

One object of an ecological garden is to restore the natural cycles that have been broken by conventional landscape design and agriculture. Have you ever wondered why a forest or meadow looks perfect and stays nearly disease free with no care at all, while a garden demands ardous hours of labor? In a garden, weeds still pop up like, well, weeds, and every plant seems to be covered in its own set of weird spots and chomping bugs. This happens because most gardens ignore nature's rules.

Look how gardens differ from natural landscapes. Not only does nature never do just one thing, nature abhors bare soil, large blocks of a single plant type, and vegetation that's all the same height and root depth. Nature doesn't till, either-- about the only time soil is disturbed in the wild is whe a tree topples and its upturned roots churn the earth. Yet our gardens are virtual showcases of all these unnatural methods. Not to mention our broadscale pesticide use and chemical fertilizers.

Each of these unnatural garden techniques was developed for a specific purpose. Tilling, for example, destroys weeds and pumps air to microbes that, metabolically supercharged, release a flood of nutrients for fast crop growth. These are great short-term boons to plant-growers. But we now know that in the long term, tilling depletes fertility (those revved-up microbes will burn up all the nutrients, then die), causes more disease, and ruins the soil structure with compaction to hardpan and massive erosion as the result.

The bare soil in a typical garden, wither in a freshly tilled plot or between neatly spaced plants, is a perfect habitat for weed seeds. Weeds are simply pioneer plants, molded by millions of years of evolution to quickly cover disturbed, open ground. They'll do that relentlessly in the bare ground of a garden. Naked earth also washes away with rain, which means we'll have to do more tilling to fluff the scoured, pounded earth that's left, and add more fertilzer to replace lost nutrients.

Solid blocks of the same plant variety, though easy to seed and harvest, act as an "all you can eat" sign to insect pests and diseases. Harmful bugs will stuff themselves on this unbroken field of abundant food as thy make unimpeded hops from plant to plant, and breed to plague proportions.

Each of the conventional techniques cited above arose to solve a specific problem, but like any single-minded approach, they often don't combine will with other one-purpose methods, and they miss the big picture. The big picture here, in the typical garden, is not a happy one. Lots of tedious work, no habitat for native or rare species, struggling plants on intensive care, reliance on resource-gobbling poisonous chemicals, and in general, a decline in the garden's health, yield, and beauty unless we constantly and laboriously intervene. Yet we've come to accept all this as part of gardening.

There is another way to garden. Conventional landscapes have torn the web of nature. Important threads are missing. We can restore many of these broken links, and work with nature to lessen our own load, not to mention the cost to the environment. For example, why till and add trainloads of fertilizer, when worms and other soil life, combined with fertility building plants, will tailor finest soil possible, with very little work? That's how nature does it. Then all we need to do is make up for the small amount of nutrients lost to harvest. (Plants are mostlywater, plus some carbon from the air. The tiny amounts of minerals they take from the soil can easily be replaced if we use the proper techniques. )

"Let nature do it" also applies to dealing with pests. In a balanced landscape, diseases and insect problems rarely get out of control. That's because in the diverse, many specied garden each insect, fungus, bacterium, or potentially invasive plant is surrounded by a natural web of checks and balances. If one species becomes too abundant, its sheer availability makes it a tasty, irresistible food source for something else, which will knock it back to manageable levels. That's how nature works, and it's a useful trick for the ecological gardener.

To create a well-balanced garden, we must know something about how nature behaves. When we use nature's methods - whether for growing vegetables, flowers, or wildlife plants--the garden becomes less work, less prone to problems, and vastly more liek the dynamic, vibrant landscapes found in nature. These backyard ecosystems are deeply welcoming both for the wild world and for people, offering food and other products for self-reliance, as well as beauty and inspiration.


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Eleanore
Knowflake

Posts: 509
From: North Carolina
Registered: Aug 2003

posted April 23, 2004 10:51 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Eleanore     Edit/Delete Message
That is an excellent excerpt, Harpyr. I agree with him(?) completely.
What do you think about potted plants, though? I think a natural garden in the ground is the most ecologically sound way to do things, but do you think it's a bad thing to have potted plants of your favorites placed around, say, your porch?

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"You must be the change you wish to see in the world." - Ghandi

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Harpyr
Moderator

Posts: 1457
From: sleepy Rocky Mountain village
Registered: Dec 2002

posted April 23, 2004 11:17 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Harpyr     Edit/Delete Message
naw.. one of the fathers of permaculture says it can all start with just one window bed if you really want it to.
More green growing things, wherever possible is always a good thing!

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Eleanore
Knowflake

Posts: 509
From: North Carolina
Registered: Aug 2003

posted April 24, 2004 04:28 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Eleanore     Edit/Delete Message
Sounds good to me!

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"You must be the change you wish to see in the world." - Ghandi

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TINK
Knowflake

Posts: 891
From: New England
Registered: Mar 2003

posted April 24, 2004 11:26 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for TINK     Edit/Delete Message
A grand start to your moderatorship, harpyr.
So true this little piece. While I don't want my little plot of land to revert back to the wild, I've found that the more I work WITH the nature spirits the happier is my garden. This was an arduous, expensive lesson.
I agree with the ok on pots. The world was a much better place when there was more green in it. Every little bit helps.

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skywych
Knowflake

Posts: 64
From: The beautiful farm land of N. MO
Registered: Apr 2004

posted April 25, 2004 04:08 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for skywych     Edit/Delete Message
I'm one of those lazy gardners that use the Ruth Stout method of piling up straw, compost, and anything else, and then throughing your seeds in. It works every time and the hours spent weeding are very few.

I've read a lot about permaculture and it sounds like a wonderful way to landscape your yard and eat. But there is so much labor involved in the beginning. If you break in down into steps, each year, you can achieve your finished plan in about 5 years. That is from planting the fruit trees to eating the fruit it bears.

skywych

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Empower me to be a BOLD person, rather than a timid soul just waiting.

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Harpyr
Moderator

Posts: 1457
From: sleepy Rocky Mountain village
Registered: Dec 2002

posted April 25, 2004 08:41 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Harpyr     Edit/Delete Message
step by step is definetly the way to go for most folks. the cost and labor of putting a system into place all at once is just too much for the average person to bear.

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Randall
Webmaster

Posts: 18194
From: Columbus, GA USA
Registered: Nov 2000

posted August 01, 2004 04:01 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Randall     Edit/Delete Message
*bump*

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"Never mentally imagine for another that which you would not want to experience for yourself, since the mental image you send out inevitably comes back to you." Rebecca Clark

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