Secrets Your Garden Tells Everyone About You? Part 1

Hello, Hello! While working in my community garden plot on a beautiful day last weekend, I took a break from my own diggings to weave through the other plots and see everyone else’s handy work. I also really needed to stretch out my back, as the immense amounts of clay in the soil made even the smallest hand tool sticky and instantly heavier. My stroll confirmed my theory that there are as many unique styles of gardening as there are gardeners, themselves. With this in mind, however, I saw that one look at their garden puts many gardeners into a few broad categories that say a lot about what they think about the soil, what kind of plants they want to grow and what their relationship with nature and natural processes is like. The neighboring plots at my community garden were representative of some dominant ideologies in small and large agriculture today, so I would like to share with some of the pros and cons of each. I should mention that I have worked on several different kinds and sizes of farms and gardens over the years, but am currently very much a fan of permaculture design, so that colors my perspective. Here we go: 1. The Row Cropper

Considered a 'tidy' garden by most spectators

Considered a ‘tidy’ garden by most spectators

This is your grandmother’s garden. A favorite of gardeners all over the Westernized world and the precursor to many forms of modern agriculture, this is the garden that “settled” the American West. Still in heavy use today, this classic garden layout is widely considered visually tidy and neat by almost everyone’s neighbors. The Row Cropper gives you easy access to your crops for weeding and for harvest. The plant placement also makes it easier to tell which crop is in which area as well as to determine weeds from crops. Usually, this type of garden is divided up into only a few individual crops per season to grow enough veggies for eating with leftover for pickling or canning. Above, you can see the several rows of beets with tomatoes to the left and some marigolds to distract insects. What does this tell us about this gardener, you might ask… Well, the Marigolds tell us that this gardener knows about using some natural remedies for pests but can’t bring themselves to break their grandmother’s gardening symmetry rules by putting those marigolds in among the plants to increase effectiveness. Also, although there is easy garden access for weeding and harvesting down the rows, this gardener definitely plans to walk on their soil for all of the above. There is probably a deep down belief in the value of hard work or years of habit that keep this gardener from putting down deep deep mulch that would passively fertilize the soil while minimizing weed germination and decreasing water loss in between the rows. I respect the tidy lines and easy access, but this gardener still has to weed because they choose to, not because they have to. The Row Cropper also shares some of the risks of large monocultures, since when a pest is lured in, for example, by an ailing beet plant, it finds itself in a buffet line of identical species just a leaf hop away. If not rotated properly, the Row Cropper can lead to pest populations that increase year by year in the soil and in dormant roots from years before. All criticisms aside, if you live in North America, there is a pretty good chance that a garden just like this one helped someone in your family survive the Great Depression or at least keep their teeth from falling out by boosting nutrition during WWII. Next up: 2. The Day Dreamer

Low production with sporadic plantings of ornamentals and vegetable crops, intensive weed problems comon

Low production with sporadic plantings of ornamentals and vegetable crops, intensive weed problems common

There are a couple of these beauties in every community garden. They usually come about through a combination of a legitimate love for plants but a lack of experience with them.  They don’t really grow significant amounts of any vegetable, if any. The example above is currently filled with unharvested broccoli flowers and a few withered squash plants. The flowers that manage to survive do so by the occasional deep watering from the mostly absent gardener or a sympathetic neighbor who can’t let a plant die before their eyes. In spite of the almost willful neglect, gardeners with plots like this are usually great to have around because of their optimism, their willingness to try things they don’t have much experience with (like gardening) and their ability to see great things in just one or two little plants. As for their understanding of the soil, that’s not really where they are right now. They are probably locked in a battle with the mightily invasive bermuda grass, but don’t see that they are actually cultivating it almost exclusively. Their occasional tilling followed by a deep watering disrupts the root systems of non-turfgrass plants and sets the stage for the grass to move in at full speed. That’s all for now. Feel free to share more! Next Time: “Little Big Ag” and ” Garden² ”


About ERay

Capoeirista, Gardener, and Development Practitioner but a cowboy way down deep.
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4 Responses to Secrets Your Garden Tells Everyone About You? Part 1

  1. lizard100 says:

    This post is great. We have a neighbour who we refer to kindly as the vampire. We never see him and he leaves no footprints on the sandy soil. We’ve decided he must only visit at night and float above the ground. There’s not a single un intended green speck and he lays out his strawberries in a chess board like grid.


  2. lizard100 says:

    I think I might be doing a sequel too. Thanks for the inspiration E Ray!

    Liked by 1 person

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