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Tales from a Plant Addict

Fun (& a few serious) facts, tips and tricks for every gardener, new and old.

Slow Gardening

Modern life shows no sign of slowing down anytime soon. If anything, modern conveniences allow us to pack more activity into each day, usually in the form of "multitasking". Science tells us that the brain can only perform one task at a time effectively, but still our modern sensibilities tell us we are not productive citizens unless we are doing five things at once!

If we're not careful, this frenzied multitasking mindset can infringe on our gardens, the very place we are supposed to find peace and connect with nature. This time of year it is easy to look at our gardens and see the work that needs to be done rather than the wonder of life emerging after the cold winter. Gardening author Felder Rushing coined the phrase "slow gardening" to encourage a more relaxed approach to gardening.

He tells us that "slow gardening isn't lazy or passive gardening—it actually involves doing more stuff, carefully selected to be productive without senseless, repetitive chores." Slow gardening invites us to appreciate the rhythm of the seasons, choose plants most appropriate for local conditions, and to sit back and actually ENJOY our gardens.

A rule of thumb for slow gardening is to think in terms of gardening for the "long haul" and finding ways to ways to "take it easy" in your garden. How can you make your garden less like work and more like a chance to take a break from the treadmill of modern life?

Consider how you plant and maintain your garden. Rather than cramming as much activity as humanly possible into the all too brief weekend, what if you spread your gardening out, doing a little each day? Imagine how it would feel to have time to enjoy and observe your garden rather than reducing it to another item checked off your 'to-do' list.

Another key concept of slow gardening is "right plant, right place". In other words, choose pest- and disease-resistant plants that are well adapted to local climate and soils. This might mean planting more native plants, but this concept also includes planting new varieties bred to require little maintenance. A natural result of selecting plants well adapted to local conditions is less use of pesticides. Less use of pesticides may lead to more birds and butterflies visiting your garden.

Slow gardening also encourages us to plant food crops in our gardens. This doesn't necessarily mean creating a large vegetable garden. Peppers or tomatoes planted in a sunny flower garden, some herbs outside the kitchen door, or a pot of lettuce on the patio all count. Although in today's modern global society produce is available year-round in supermarkets, this produce will never taste as good as what grows in your own backyard. Try it and see.

I love the concept of slow gardening, but I struggled to really put it into practice until I had my son in 2013. As a new mom I had no choice but to garden in little bits of time, and some things I "always" did just couldn't get done. I've fought pangs of guilt about things I think "should" be done in the garden that I just don't have an opportunity to tackle. Now adding a sibling to the mix this spring, I've got to reevaluate again. My priorities have shifted.

I can honestly say the new priorities have grown on me. My time in the garden has become more enjoyable through the eyes of my children. Caring for a newborn gives me plenty of opportunity to actually sit on the benches in our garden and take in the view. I've rediscovered the wonder of nature, particularly through the eyes of my 3 year old son. To him, every flower is a pretty flower to give to Mommy, even dandelions. He regularly stops me in my hurrying through the 'to do' list with his what, where and why questions. There have been moments that his simple "but why Mommy?" showed me that some of my activities in the garden are a product of my own perfectionism and not really necessary. Maybe gardens don't have to look "perfect" to be beautiful.


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