I have a confession to make: I’m not much of a gardener.
Actually, I’m a terrible gardener.
I keep at it though, thinking that practice makes perfect and all.
My biggest downfall is not watering enough. You should have seen how the garden thrived when we went on holidays and the neighbours looked after it!
Watering the garden can be just another chore, on a long list of chores at the end of a tiring day.
Other days I just plain forget.
The garden grows though. But not as well as it could if I showed a little more TLC.
Basil, garlic chives and the orchid are exceptions. They seem to thrive because of my neglect rather than in spite of it (much to the frustration of my orchid loving father-in-law).
I heard Annette McFarlane say once that watering her garden in the cool of the evening, with a glass of wine in hand, listening to the birds and the insects in the trees, was one of her favourite ways to meditate.
At our house, as soon as I turn the tap on, the little fella starts nagging: “I want to water the garden! Why can’t I water the garden?” And as I’m always one to encourage the kids to learn responsibility (and to silence any further nagging) I blithely hand over the hose.
Seconds later, the little lady is grabbing at the hose screaming “ME! ME! ME!” And as they are wrestling and screaming an arc of water streams over the fence and onto the neighbour’s dry washing and I’m suddenly sprawled out on the pavers, having tripped over the hose scrambling to turn the tap off.
Surely concussion is also deeply relaxing?
So, I’m all for lazy gardening techniques. Bring on no-dig gardening and drip irrigation!
One positive outcome of garden neglect is a self-seeded garden.
Last year I planted a punnet each of rocket and cos lettuce. Six plants for $2 a punnet isn’t a bad investment considering a single cos lettuce form the green grocer doesn’t get any cheaper than $1.
And it’s such a luxury to go to the garden and pick a few leaves here and there for your salad, right before you eat it, which also extends the life of the plant and the amount you can harvest.
But here’s the cool thing. Eventually the greens went to seed (ok, they may possibly have bolted due to lack of water).
Because I didn’t pull them up, the seeds dropped everywhere and now I have dozens and dozens of little rocket and lettuce seedlings all throughout the garden (not to mention in between the pavers).
I’m assuming that if left alone, this cycle could go on indefinitely. That’s a pretty good return on investment from the initial $2.
Of course, you could collect and store the seeds to replant, but that’s not quite as lazy as just letting them drop where they will.
I did eventually pull up the old plants, once they were brown and dead, but left them lying in the garden, despite DH asking me when I was going to tidy up the mess.
But leaving things looking untidy has several benefits.
Firstly, the dead plants provide mulch, helping to keep moisture in the soil. And it needs all the help it can get in that department. Especially as we’ve had quite a dry summer.
They provided protection for the little seedlings, that are popping up beneath the dead stems, from the hot February sun.
And they help keep the neighbours cat out of the garden!
Eventually, they will make good ‘dry’ matter for the compost heap, returning nutrients to the soil.
Jackie French has written some brilliant books all about this kind of lazy or ‘wilderness’ gardening technique, specifically with Australian growing conditions in mind. If you’re wanting to grow some of your own food, but you’re wondering where you’re going to find the time, Jackie’s books (particularly The Wilderness Garden (aff. link)) are a wealth of information on low maintenance, frugal gardening.
And while you’re at the library, Small Space Organics (aff. link) by Josh Byrne (from Gardening Australia) is a good source of information about establishing gardens according to permaculture principles and setting up drip irrigation systems – a great way to water the garden for lazy gardeners like me.
Gardens need some care and attention, and tending to your plants is usually a nice way to relax and reconnect with nature.
But there’s one gardening job that doesn’t get enough attention, and that is letting nature take it’s course.