Remember your first garden? The many trips to the garden supplies store were like shopping for the first day of school. Everything is new, yet untouched and ready for endless possibilities. These are the tools of creativity; your creativity. It is almost as thought the tools themselves will ensure success.
Then there are gardening books and magazines. We do our homework, research everything, plan the garden row by row, learn about the proper mix of soil for each plant, all the while imagining a fully realized harvest, the mind skipping forward in time to reveal the dream.
For the gardener who starts from scratch, with no previous introduction to the art of tending the fruits of the earth, what comes next usually is a series of awakenings, or reality checks and adjustments. The real learning takes place in the garden more than in preparing for it. After a season or two, the gardener throws away the instructions manual and works directly from the experience at hand. This experience is not so much about the harvest itself as it is about the logistics of gardening.
In time, one finds rules and a rhythm that harmonize the garden to one’s values and lifestyle. This is true of everything we do around the house. Here are a few tricks of the trade from seasoned gardeners and homeowners who have sought this harmony.
I’m not paying the dump $5 to dispose of my compost!
Susan McIntosh, of Maine, says, “I was paying $5 or more for 15 garbage bags. I used these when cleaning the yard and weeding. In essence, every time I bought a new box of bags, I was paying the dump $5 to dispose of leaves and twigs and weeds. I was buying compost on top of that. My garden was impeccable. My practices were not. The next season, I invested a few hundred dollars in a good compost bin. I stopped buying garbage bags for the yard and I stopped buying compost. I made my own.
House for sale, with swing – must buy garden equipment too!
Fred and Mary Leonard, of the Texas Hill Country, were downsizing. They put their house on the market. It is during a conversation with their real estate agent that they had a unique idea. “We have always gardened,” says Mary. “One of the very first things the agent said was that our yard and garden were a great selling point. We sort of knew this already, but the more we talked about it, the more it felt like all right, let’s really sell all of it then. We are downsizing after all.”
“We talked with our agent,” continues Mary, “And told him we wanted our buyers to be first-time home buyers, a young couple just moving out of an apartment maybe, who have a dream of gardening, but do not have their own equipment. We want to include our lawn and garden equipment with the sale of the house. We have taken good care of them. They are in top shape. We are downsizing so we don’t need them. Let’s sell our house to young gardeners with a dream.”
They advertised mainly in garden supply stores and magazines, listing tools and equipment for sale and playfully adding “Comes with the house and garden.” It was June. The house sold before the end of August. The newlywed couple who bought it (just as they had hoped) was thrilled. To them, the seeder, garden seat, weed mats, hose reel, lawn mower and multitude of gardening tools were the best wedding gift. It made them feel at home more than anything else. The Leonards made it a point to leave one more item behind, the Cedar Porch Swing.
Garbage bags are a waste!
Denis Beliveau, of Louisiana, will tell you right out that he feels, “Garbage bags are a waste!” One day, Denis looked inside the garbage pail before taking the bag out to the curb and realized nearly everything in it was far from being biodegradable. “My youngest daughter was looking for an idea for a project at school at the time. I suggested she and I would find ways to eliminate the kitchen garbage pail. I admit that at first we both thought it was impossible to actually eliminate it, but the more we discussed it, the more we challenged each other.”
The Beliveaus took this one step further. They purchased a worm bin for composting right in the kitchen. This added a whole new dimension to the school project. Putting food items in the worm bin instead of the garbage was easy and it was fascinating. The greatest challenge was how to eliminate non-food garbage. They were already recycling cardboard and plastic, but realized that such items as bread bags were not recyclable. “It occurred to my daughter (she is the smart one) that the real problem was packaging, so we decided to eliminate non-recyclable packaging simply by refusing to purchase food and other items that came in it. It was not that hard and we soon found that we were also making smarter food choices in the process. Katy was thrilled and her project was highly acclaimed.”
The moral of these creative accounts is simple: The best rules are the ones that create harmony… and they do so because they take root as we seek a more natural flow and because they are shaped by our values.