Taking Time To Listen
I’ve taken more time to read books and listen to some videos and podcasts by fellow garden bloggers/writers. Ken Druse had an interesting podcast recently. In his conversation with Chris Beytes there were some opinions that instigated some of my own.
In this recent recording of ‘Real Dirt‘, garden center trends were discussed along with some general opinions on how we garden…. worth thinking about.
The fact is that business is down, and has been trending down everywhere. Many garden blogs who address the state of doing business in the gardening niche (Trey Pitsenberger comes to mind) relate how heavy an impact the decreased interest level has had for gardening and its industry, not only the economy. Chris Beytes remarked that the garden center customer has been buying less, and Druse offered the perspective that people have fragmented time to commit, including many competing interests. As well as the fact addressed by Beyte’s comment that “if you don’t have a home, you don’t have a place to garden“. There are those who might quibble on that, but the reality is that without a home we don’t landscape, even though the extension of gardening can include container pots and indoor plants…. but that is one turn in the overall trend of gardening that is being discussed, I think.
These are general cultural trends that are impacting more than just our gardening, so those observations are surely a large piece of the puzzle of why garden business is struggling.
I personally think there is more at stake than just the welfare of garden businesses, which is why I paid particular attention to this conversation. There is a general trending that gardening can effectively answer, in matters of healthcare questions and food supply questions… as well as general, yet long term, macro topics like the state of the environment.
Growing Gardening and 3 Rules
Along the way, Ken remarked on something that obviously irks him: promoters with a “Get the garden done in no time” message. as someone who loves the plant world with the type of passion that gave us the ‘Planthropology’ book, he would rather the love of gardening be the emphasis. Learning the art of it is certainly a message I most respond to and resonate with. (Yes, I know you got two dangling participles for the price of one!)
Anyone who loves a garden, in whatever form that garden takes for you, knows it is the connection with growing and nurturing something living and beautiful that is so intriguing about gardening. It is more than a pastime, it is something intrinsic within us that growing green things calls forth. The business of gardening simply is something that rises from that deeper response that gardens evoke.
Which is why I felt that Beytes point of the garden industry trending toward more of the “quick finished” sort of gardening is counter intuitive. When giving a peek into his own personal enjoyment of his garden time, it was more in sync with Druse’s desire to see us focus more on the “satisfying” aspects of working the soil, rather than how “easy” it can be. The difference a word makes!
Turning towards opinionmaking in the method of gardening Chris Beytes mentioned a “no rules” approach. That is one I tend to take myself, and fully agree with his advice to start out in a simpler manner that lends itself to success. It is a point I underline in my own garden advice. Even those of us who like challenges, if we dig back far enough in our history, will find a place where the success of seeing something thrive and grow caught us…. hooked us into involving ourselves more with the keener intrigue of building our own gardens, despite the necessary “failures” which we all experience at some point.
But at the mention of “no rules”, Druse offered some wisdom that he has compiled and condensed in an essence of 3 Rules
- Try not to plant invasive plants
- Try to be organic and sustainable
- Leave the place you garden better off than when you found it
I really like these guidelines, which he called them in an email when I asked for further elaboration on his rules. I hope he doesn’t mind if I directly quote some of the balanced and wise advice he has on this.
“I used to say that there were no rules in gardening, just get out there and do it.
But now I do have some “guidelines.”
- Avoid potentially hazardous chemicals, and don’t use any product that is blue-green (natural-gas-based fertilizer).
- Leave the place you garden better off than when you found it, and that means soil, as well — feed the soil with organic amendments like your own compost, and avoid peat moss, among other things.
- Most Important: do not plant a potentially invasive plant.
Nursery people ask me how they are supposed to know if a plant is going to be trouble. Well, if the plant is a vine that covers trees in its country of origin; if it is a colonizer like grasses; if it is an exotic with berries the birds just love; if it you have so much, you are constantly giving pieces away — we’ve all heard of pass-along-plants? I call them pass-along-pests. Sure, these things are easy to grow, but who wants to spend their entire gardening life trying to get rid of some thing they intentionally planted in their gardens? Remember, only one plant can live in one place at one time, and if something is pushing out a native, then the animal that depended on the plant is gone, and it goes right up the chain to us.
I have to say I’ve been slow to garden by some of this advice, particularly the one concerning plants. Although the Lord knows how I hate Aegopodium (Bishop’s Weed)- the one plant I have on my eternal black list! Still, research is showing the importance of paying attention to ridding ourselves of some of the invasives and refusing to propagate them in our garden spaces… one that comes to mind is the honeysuckle bush, so common in this part of Ohio.
So this old gardener is coming around on some of these practices, as well.
What I notice
I have noticed the decrease in plant offerings, and the increase in pot sizes, in order to keep up income. That has not been good news for me as a passionate gardener. Yet, I’ve been part of the trend of spending less, to adjust my budget to the demands of the economic climate. If I want something special I hope to find it at my local nursery, but they are having difficulty making their business thrive with this…. although in my local area it isn’t only economics, but work demands that also enter into the mix.
Beytes remarked on how plant prices have not really risen over the years and that “this is the best time in a long time to think about landscaping” due to “sales are down, so you can get good bargains”. In the plant world, that is probably a temporary opportunity – so once those bargain plants are bought, it isn’t likely to be a repeatable experience. I personally don’t find the end of season bargains like I used to ( yes, I’m a bottom feeder- it is the way my economy can work!)
Of course, I can’t help but notice the way “green” has become such a trend in our entire society. This is good, generally. My only caveat is the mindlessness with which something that becomes buzzword popular is diluted in the attentiveness paid to the importance of an endeavor. we must keep serious in our trend toward less chemicals, more environmental friendly practices and educated choices about our plantings.
To pay better attention in a world awash with “greening”, you might want to listen in to the Real Dirt interview with Maria Rodale (which followed the conversation with Chris Beytes); and coming up this Friday is a show on “Monrovia and other growers in trouble”.
You can tell I’ve become a fan. I don’t usually like garden talk shows and podcasts, but some of the new ones like Ken’s and Joe Lamp’l are winning me over. ( I was always a a consumer of garden books and magazines, radio shows etc. – not so much) Great topics that get me thinking… because, folks that just how I roll 😉
I think garden information is just getting better and better in the way it is delivered. Eventually I do think it will have a good effect on people catching the excitement and joy of growing a garden. while we still lag the UK. Community gardens are not as common, here, and suburban lots seem to languish in comparison with England’s, yet I think that the future will not only hold more active gardening, but that it will need to. I hope to be part of sharing the best of that long term and satisfying trend; and that is why I wanted to share some of the thoughts about some of the garden talk I’ve been listening in on.
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