Recently in an attempt to find some other gardeners to chat with, I joined several gardening groups on facebook. It all seemed so normal at first, plant identification request, questions on mulch, pictures of people’s gardens and flowers. It was all very nice. Then gradually I started to see a common thread running rampant in these groups, there were so called gardeners who believed the answer to any question was to kill it! It didn’t matter if it was a native plant, a harmless garter snake or what. Kill, kill, kill was promoted over and over. As if that wasn’t bad enough, then came the poison it group and the number one promoted item for everything…moth balls.
What kind of gardeners are these people?
I started gardening, as in I had my own flowers when I was little. Marigolds were (and still are!) my favorite annual. I gradually moved on from annuals to perennials and began carving out my own space in my mom’s yard. What I learned at her side very early on was that chemicals and death were not the answer to the problems we faced. If there were certain bugs eating plants, you companion planted to attract the things that would eat those bugs or repel them. Moles tearing up the yard, my mom planted castor beans and used nematodes for grub control. Aphids eating roses, bring on the lady bugs! Poisoning the plant or the soil that was growing our flowers and food wasn’t an option. There was always a better way.
Today I garden the way my mom taught me, I respect the balance that nature has and I do my part to encourage that balance to work. I don’t use pesticides or herbicides in my gardening. My property is certified by the National Wildlife Federation and by my state as protected habitat. I remove invasive species of plants by hand, I plant native species in an effort to out compete the non native ones and to provide food and shelter for the animals and insects that call my property home. I nurture any seedling of most native plants (sans poison ivy, oak and sumac because they can grow wild in the untamed woods just on the other side of our fence!) and encourage their growth and spreading. I also am constantly educating myself on how to garden with nature. I recently learned that pokeweed berries are a preferred food of eastern blue birds. So now, pokeweed has a place in my garden.
A garden, be it many acres, a few feet or a deck full of planters is a living thing. It provides food and shelter to so many creatures in so many ways. I can’t look out into my yard and not see nature at work. I see birds eating seeds, berries and insects, I see all kinds of bees pollinating flowers, I see butterflies, hummingbirds and things I don’t even know the names of yet, flying around and doing whatever it is they do. They have a purpose, a reason and they fit into this big chain of life. I see that so clearly.
So me, I guess I’m a humane gardener.
What kind of gardener are you???