I believe that in about 10 years’ time I may have built up enough experience to write the definitive guide for lazy gardeners. Though the word “lazy” gets a bad rap, in my humble opinion. There are a few synonyms for lazy that I feel describe my approach to gardening pretty well. Inattentive, dallying, neglectful and lackadaisical are a few of them. None of those are particularly flattering words either… though “dallying” and “lackadaisical” sound kinda fun! 🙂
I have nothing against tidy yards and gardens. I love to look at them and fully appreciate their symmetrical, well designed and pristine aesthetic. It’s sort of like looking at magazine photos of immaculate houses… they’re gorgeous… but I wouldn’t want to live there!
The green spaces that really draw me in are those that are more in line with nature. And
tidy, nature is not! And when you quit trying to fight with nature and just sort of decide to go along with it, things naturally simplify themselves.
Let me throw in an analogy here. I don’t have curly hair. I don’t really have straight hair either. For years, well decades really, I fought the nature of my hair. I permed it. More times than I can count. I used curling irons. Diffusers. Hair product galore. Time, money – resources – were spent forcing my hair to be something it wasn’t. I won’t even go into the straight hair phase!
One day, as if awaking from some sort of trance, I decided not to have curly hair or straight hair. Instead, I would find a style that worked with my not curly, not straight hair. What an amazing idea! Now, I’m not going to say that I have had great looking hair ever since that remarkable breakthrough, but I will say that it has been an improvement – and it’s WAY less expensive to maintain, it’s MUCH healthier, and I rarely spend more than a few minutes in a day fixing it.
So, am I lazy for choosing a low-maintenance hairstyle that requires little effort on my part? I don’t know. Maybe a little lackadaisical (defined as lacking enthusiasm and determination) – I think I could get on board with that.
So, how does that apply to gardening? I don’t know! I’m still trying to figure this crap out, ok? But I do have a few working theories that experience will flesh out and time will tell.
Here are a few of my theories (most of which are actually someone else’s theory first and most of these theories can be read about if you research organic or permaculture gardening – though they probably don’t have the same names!).
Garden Ecology Requires Balance: This theory is pretty simple. If I use pesticides on my garden, I not only kill the pests, but I kill the beneficial insects too! My plants need pollinators, I don’t want to kill those. And lady bugs. Which are not pollinators, but they are adorable! And more importantly, they are ferocious and voracious. And what do they eat? Why aphids, of course.
And what about my dragonflies and damselflies… they do no harm to me. In fact, they bring me great pleasure as I watch them dart about in all their beautiful array of flashy colors. And they too are voracious… eating up mosquitoes and gnats and all kinds of pesky flyers.
The Circle of Life: This one is very similar to the first in that what you do to one species will always effect another. If you kill off (even using safe organic products) the insects in the garden, you will remove the food source for and therefor drive off all their natural predators.
This means that when the insects make their comeback (which they will do!), they will have fewer natural predators to contend with. Which in turn, creates more work for me (the gardener) to have to deal with these pests AGAIN.
But what if the pests are not removed, but allowed to hang around. They become a sort of living, breathing, breeding food buffet for their natural predators. This in turn draws in the predators, they are of course attracted to this handy and ready-made feast awaiting them. And as the cycle continues and the pests keep coming back, they keep being met by their natural predators which keep them in check.
It may be lazy of me, but if nature wants to do my work for me, who am I to argue?
Tidiness Equals Death!!!! Ok, this one may be a slight exaggeration but I think it makes my point nicely. Like I mentioned above, nature is not tidy! Perhaps you noticed this the last time you took a walk in the woods.
Last fall’s debris still lying about all over the place, fallen limbs decaying in place and mercy-me-there-are-weeds-everywhere! What else do you see when you pause for a moment to be still and listen and watch? LIFE! It is all around in great abundance and thriving in all that mess!
No one waters the forest or pulls weeds or kills pests or fertilizes or plants seeds or fusses. Yet plants flourish and life abounds.
Part of what allows a forest to be self-sustaining is the mess! All that decaying debris nourishes the soil, holds in moisture, protects against soil erosion and provides habitat for countless critters. Seeds fall and work their way into the ground and even plants that have an annual life cycle will reseed themselves and come back year after year.
Removing weeds and debris and keeping very tidy yards and gardens removes vast areas of
habitat for our powerful little insect allies! I am so committed to this theory that I have even learned to not begrudge this good habitat for the spiders that live in my garden (and run across my bare toes or God help me, run up my arm when I’m digging around without gloves). Now, that’s commitment!
Sometimes, however, my commitment to my theories gets tested in dramatic fashion. I am currently experiencing one of those situations! My untidy garden is the perfect habitat, it would seem, for nesting bumblebees.
Bumblebees are harmless, they say! Don’t disturb them and they won’t disturb you, they say! They’re completely docile, they say! One of the most loved insects on the planet, they say!
Well, let’s just say I may soon be starring in my very own episode of “When good bees go bad!” and I find myself facing somewhat of a moral dilemma. Do I exterminate them and chalk it up to irreconcilable differences? Or do I stick to my theoretical guns and figure out a way to peacefully coexist with one of God’s smallest creatures?
The jury is still out on this one, but I’m hoping to find a peaceful resolution.