As we walk through several buildings daily, we seldom give any thought to the walls around us, unless it’s to notice a decoration of some sort. Yet in finishing drywalls, specialists like Longhorn Contracting must coordinate with electricians, plumbers, sound engineers, and designers. A lot of thought and effort goes into what lies beneath the surface.
Gardens share the same feature of unassuming complexity. Most people passing by a garden see a lot of greenery. They may appreciate its beauty, especially if there are bright, showy flowers or decorative plants on display. But the underlying skill involved in tending a garden is seldom appreciated by non-professionals.
Why are individual plants grown while others are removed? What goes into good soil, and how does your gardening activity impact the rest of the environment? The answers to these questions will vary, but understanding them is essential to a healthy practice. Here’s why you can be a better gardener by treating your garden not as a small green space, but as a functional, complex ecosystem with you as its steward.
Homeowners tend to approach gardening with an insular attitude. After all, our gardens lie on our property, and that property has clear boundaries. As our lives often extend up to, not beyond, those boundaries, so do our interest and sense of responsibility.
Yet the typical garden doesn’t exist in a vacuum. When you apply fertilizer, prune leaves, or treat plants with pesticides, the components enter the soil. They can enter the groundwater or get washed away with runoff. Weeds take root because their seeds are dispersed by wind, birds, and other mechanisms. Sunlight and water are drawn from the environment as well; in the latter case, artificial means are often used to supplement natural precipitation.
Your garden can be your little spot of paradise at home, but it is also a tiny ecosystem. It’s nestled within the greater ecosystem around you and interacts with the big picture through all those daily inputs and outputs.
Recognizing this, you can become a better gardener by practicing sustainability. Conserve resources, and lower the maintenance costs of your garden. You can collect rainwater in barrels or pools and lessen your consumption through municipal lines. Organic methods for weed and pest control can supplement or replace chemical use, lowering the impact on the environment.
Treat the soil like a recipe
Anyone who has committed to becoming physically fit will know that exercise is only half of the equation. If you want to stay in shape, you also need to follow a healthy diet. Instead of eating out or ordering fast food, you should take control of your nutrition and prepare your meals.
Good soil plays the same role as a healthy meal for your plants. For a garden to flourish, you need to treat it like a recipe and make sure it has balance. Plants need to obtain a variety of organic nutrients; they also need the soil to retain water and air.
The quality of soil depends on the relative amounts of sand, silt, and clay. While you want an ideal balance of those three, not all locations are so fortunate. Thus, many homeowners resort to buying good soil from a supplier. But this is a shortcut to quick results; it doesn’t encourage long-term success.
Learn how to work the soil and balance its composition to improve excesses of pH level, sand, or clay. Make it a practice to apply mulch for improved soil cover, increasing aeration, and water retention. And compost regularly to mix fresh organic matter into your soil and periodically enrich it for healthy plants.
Nature encourages diversity. Individual organisms adapt to changing conditions. Species evolve to fill different niches. Left unattended, a natural environment will find balance in time.
Human intervention, when applied without understanding, can harm diversity. By insisting on monocultures, we label all other species as undesirable. We discard them without appreciating what they bring to the big picture.
Native plant species, for instance, have evolved over millennia to thrive in local conditions. They are resistant to diseases and pests and require for sustenance only what the natural environment provides. These plants have also developed relationships with pollinators. Introduce native plants to your garden, and you’ll make it more attractive to insects and other wildlife. Bees, butterflies, birds, and other pollinators will frequent the area more.
With these practices, you’re tending your garden like a steward. Recognize that gardens don’t just belong to you or exist to serve human needs. They are part of the ecosystem and fulfill their greatest function by giving back to the whole.