Why Do You Garden?
by Diane Sharp, Collin County Master Gardener
Greg Grant has authored and co-authored several gardening books, taught college horticulture classes, writes a column for Texas Gardener magazine, introduced plants into the Southern nursery industry including Gold Star Esperanza, John Fanick phlox and Henry Duelberg sage. He is currently the Smith County horticulturist for the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service in Tyler.
I recently read Greg Grant’s blog post Natural by Nature in which he wrote about why people garden. In the article he says “I’m sure different folks have different reasons, but for me it boils down to the fact that I love nature. After all, gardening is just nature after being forced into a Miss Manners class and being guided by an overly focused hand. But are manners and submission the way to go? I think not.” He believes most gardeners have “too many rules, set expectations too high and often garden for the wrong reasons.” He believes we should not only be concerned about producing beautiful landscapes and growing fantastic fruits and vegetables, but we should look at a “bigger picture and garden in a more holistic fashion.” He wants us to think of our property not just as a garden or farm but as parts of a larger ecosystem. Each plant and animal is important.
He also mentioned Master Gardeners. He has taught many Master Gardener training classes and he thinks some Master Gardeners are “more excited about being labeled a “master” gardener and improving the appearance of their plants and properties at home than they are volunteering to educate.”
I will admit that my reasons for applying to the Master Gardener program over twenty years ago were selfish. I was new to Collin County and had moved from a standard city yard to over six acres with a one-acre yard. I needed help and I wanted to meet people that shared my interest in gardening. I knew I could do the volunteer work but had never really thought of educating people as I volunteered. It didn’t take long though before I began enjoying working with people in the county. I joined the Speakers Bureau, worked at our plant sales recommending good plants for our area, and helped with programs for the public; but working in the Earth-Kind® Research and Demonstration Gardens at Myers Park in McKinney has definitely influenced all my gardening and speaks to the bigger picture Greg Grant mentions.
The Earth-Kind practices of water conservation, reduced fertilizer and pesticide use, soil preparation, use of appropriate plants and use of mulch have produced successful gardens, both ornamental and edible, while protecting our environment. I have definitely enjoyed sharing what we have learned in those gardens. We’ve shown Earth-Kind practices work with many different types of plants and we’ve found many easy to grow plants for our area.
Part of our Collin County Master Gardener Association mission statement is “to assist and support the Texas A&M AgriLife Horticulture agent in providing our community with research-based information on sustainable horticultural practices and environmental stewardship.”
Mr. Grant says “We have a plethora of problems on our planet right now, including pollinators, pesticides, pollution, and property use. Nature needs our help in the worst way and we gardeners are best suited to help.” We can have beautiful landscapes and productive vegetable gardens but still protect wildlife and the environment. We need to water efficiently, be careful using pesticides and fertilizer – always following recommendations and trying to reduce or eliminate their use.
His conclusion? “Sow diversity. Have as many native plants as possible. Create habitat. Make sure your landscape provides fruits, nuts, seeds, shelter and water. Remember native insects fuel the ecosystem, so try to limit pesticides. They kill stuff. Being neat and tidy is OK, but don’t overdo it. It’s OK to look pretty. Grow natural. Bee happy.”
Quoted with permission. You can read Mr. Grant's entire article at: https://arborgate.com/blog/gregs-ramblings/natural-by-nature/
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