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Sunday, April 28, 2013

Slow Gardening

Perhaps some of you have heard of the "Slow Food" movement.  This was a reaction to the Fast Food culture that many of us in North America grew up with and that is slowly but surely insinuating itself in other part of the world including Europe.

I can certainly get behind most of their ideas but where we part ways is when I perceive that these folks have entirely lost their sense of humor and are taking themselves way too seriously.  They seem to be confusing Food with Religion and think that taking pleasure in eating is secondary to achieving a state of grace. This glorious smackdown between Anthony Bourdain and Alice Waters is a great example of this:

Gardening is another world where you can find these kinds of (dare I say it?) theological arguments.  To be very clear, I don't garden because it's a pleasurable way of doing penance for the sins of modernity;  I don't compost because I'm trying to "Save the Earth" or because it saves the local garbage company a few bucks;  I certainly don't try to keep my garden free of pesticides and chemical fertilizers because I think that the Green Inquisition will come and arrest me for my sins - on the contrary, when push comes to shove, vive the Roundup!

I use these methods because they work and I garden because it make me happy.  Yep, it's all about the fun.  The pleasure principle in its purest form.  I like having my hands in the earth, I like watching things grow, I like sitting on my back porch and watching the sunlight move over the beds and I get an enormous kick when my neighbors lean over the fence and say how much they too are enjoying the results.

I called this post "Slow Gardening" but I think a better title would be "Gardening without Guilt."  Just for fun, here are a few of the principles I follow.  Please feel free to chastise me if you have another view - I'm a big girl, (I can take it):

Take Your Time:  Some people approach gardening in the same way they approach exercise:  infrequent bursts of energy and then lots of guilt because they just can't keep it up.  Piffle!  Do as much as you can, when you can.  If you feel like digging in the dirt, then go dig.  If you are going through a dry spell and don't want to work in the garden at all, think about hiring a garden service to take care of it until you feel more motivated.  The life of a garden is measured in decades (even centuries), not years.  That unpruned hedge will still be there tomorrow and leaving it until you feel like doing something about it is just fine.

When you do decide to start a project, consider doing it in chunks.  It took me days to prune my forsythias.  The process went something like this:  Remove dead wood, have a cup of coffee, remove more dead wood, have second cup of coffee, start removing canes, go inside and check email,  admire work done so far, have third cup of coffee, start removing more canes....

Make Mistakes:  Yep, it's allowed.  None of us has the power to make anything grow - all we can do is try and provide the right environment so that the plant has a chance.  That bed that sounded like a really good idea, turns out to be not quite the thing.  So what?  If the plant isn't happy where it is, move it somewhere else.  If that bed really looks wrong, correct until it does or buy some lawn seed and turn it back into grass.  99.99999% of garden mistakes are correctable - none of us have the tools (napalm or nuclear weapons) to do our little bit of earth in more or less permanently.   So relax.  It's all fixable.

Mourn and Move On:  Stuff dies.  Even the best gardener with a reputation for having la main verte loses sometimes.  Perhaps it wasn't meant to be.  Above all don't beat yourself up over it.  Dig it up, throw it on the compost heap and find something else for the space.  Best to think it over though because if you try the same plant in the same space, it may not fare any better than the previous one.

Going back to the principle "Take Your Time" - don't be too hasty to pull the plant up.  I mentioned a few weeks ago that I had killed my peonies by transplanting them.  My mom sent me and email and suggested that they might just be sulking and that I should wait a few more weeks.  She was right.  All of them are now up.

And I just looked at the clock and I have 20 minutes to get myself over to Chantiers for Sunday Mass.  So I will end this post with the latest Flophouse garden pictures.  Bon Dimanche, everyone!


Blaze said...

"The best place to seek God is in a garden. You can dig for him there."
(George Bernard Shaw)

Julia Gandrud (aka JuliaLikesFrogs) said...

Your garden looks wonderful, and very alive. Sorry to be gloomy about the roundup, but -- there are a lot of people out there talking about its neurotoxicity, so be careful! (for example)

Anonymous said...

Your garden looks amazing!

Sometimes the simple things in life can bring the most pleasure.

Victoria FERAUGE said...

@Blaze, I must be meeting God a lot lately :-) Oh there is nothing like having your hands in the dirt. It's heaven.

@Julialikesfrogs: Good point. Yes, I try to avoid chemicals as much as possible. They are the last resort. My mother send me an email with a more "natural" method of getting rids of pests out there in Oregon:

"We live in a gopher motel- moles are pretty harmless but gophers eat tree roots – I mean lots and lots of tree roots. They can (and in Oregon will) reach the size of Jack Russell terriers. We engaged Marv, the guy across the street with the donkeys to do the purge. Marv had a great routine – got in his Cushman with lawn chair, rake, coffee and twelve guage. Set up his pitch, raked over an active the hole and drank coffee until the curious gopher raised his head and went off to gopher heaven – apparently a blast in the head from a 12 guage shell is a permanent solution. ..."