29 September 2010

In Praise of Lazy Gardening

Over the years I have kept several gardens, which as we all know are spiritually and morally fortifying.

Few things enjoy such broad if not unanimous approval. What could be more humane and decent than kneeling in the soil, packing dirt gently around tender stalks, sprinkling water while standing in a nearly yogic pose, and seeing the abundance of flowers and fruits that come in due time.

While I have kept several gardens, I have never been really successful, though. My instinct for design is minimal. My commitment to weeding shrivels in the heat. As much as I find it rewarding, I find other things rewarding too, and thus my gardens tend to be seedy.

This year was no exception. Our sunflowers grew and then bent under the weight of their heads. Our string beans and peas were quickly gobbled by rabbits. My alpine strawberries should be thinned. I have no idea what to do with my asparagus to prepare it for next year when it should be ready to eat. My only success, and a doozy it is too, are my two tomato plants which went berserk alongside the fence, producing over 5 dozen tomatoes. I am thinking of naming it Audrey.

Now, do not tell me how to do better. I am not sure I want to. That's because I have concluded that gardening can become as unnatural as anything else. Those well organized rows are not natural. The tidy weed free beds are not natural. Watering and composting are done to human standards not the plants themselves.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that vegetable gardening can be more natural, and less work.

Take the rabbits. I thought about ways to prevent them from eating my lettuce and peas and beans and then thought, "why?" They were here before I was, even before we as a people were. The seeds cost me little, and if they eat them I can go to the store or farmers market and buy more. They cannot.

I should have staked my tomato plant to keep it from sprawling. But that's for me not the plant. Some fruit have fallen and rotted, but I toss them on the compost pile knowing I cannot eat all that I have.

Think of it as truly democratic gardening, where other species are taken into account - rabbits, bees, plants. I want to add to the life in my little patch by planting things. But once planted, they become part of the community around me. They are not there solely for my benefit, but for our mutual benefit.

I am not going off the deep end. I still flush the silverfish that crawls on my tub. The squirrels leave chestnuts and crab apples that I have to sweep up or track into the house. I do mow my lawn and weed my flower beds.

All I am saying is that we need not be devoted gardeners to be good gardeners. A little indolence and messiness may even be morally better than the charming plots arranged to our small human tastes and ends.

Or maybe I just need an excuse.


Elisa (Nudelman) Winter said...

This may be my favorite AFTO blog post ever. Thanks.

plaidshoes said...

As a fellow lazy gardener, I greatly enjoyed this post! Well said.