Common sense gardening

When we don’t have common sense, we make life harder than it needs to be.  This is true in the garden too.  If we follow a down-to-earth, practical, common sense approach to gardening it is less stressful and importantly, more enjoyable.  Following on from last week’s column on common sense watering, here are my views on common sense gardening.  Not right or wrong, just my musings and what I aim to practice at Sophie’s Patch.

meadow argus butterflyDesire for perfection

For some, common sense has been lost in an obsession with perfection.  The desire or request for perfect plants (which never drop any leaves, make a mess, flower 12 months of the year, look fabulous all year round, don’t get any pests or diseases, and don’t need any maintenance) makes me inwardly groan and want to suggest plastic or silk plants.  I certainly don’t look great all the time, so I don’t expect my plants to either.

Pest and disease problems

When it comes to pest and disease problems, I believe a common sense approach is to follow the basic premise that happy healthy plants don’t get sick, or if they do, they recover quicker.  So when you have a problem, think about why the plant is not happy and healthy.  If you can solve this situation, the plant may well recover on its own or with a little bit of help from you.  If the plant is repeatedly unhappy and plagued by pest and disease problems, perhaps it’s the wrong plant for you.  Choose something that thrives rather than struggles.  There is such a thing as ‘Right plant, right place’ and while I love a challenge, common sense must prevail.  If you have tried it a couple of times and it’s died, time to give up and choose something else.

Vegie garden

In the vegie garden, be flexible enough to accept a little imperfection.  The whole point of home grown produce is to have tastier and healthier food.  When I see vegie gardens that are ‘perfect’ with no holes or woes, I often notice a decided lack of the good guys, the beneficial insects or garden guardians that help you in the garden.  You are not going to get ladybirds if there are no aphids to eat because you nuked them all, even if you only used something natural like pyrethrum (and don’t forget that just because something is ‘natural’ or ‘organic’ doesn’t mean that it won’t harm the beneficial insects like bees too.)  A few caterpillars can be picked off and an occasional snail hunt and stomp by torch light is remarkably effective.  As Lolo Houbein, author of ‘One Magic Square’ says “You can eat holes, they cook up really well!”


And finally what to do about weeds?  Well in a fenced backyard situation it is possible over a few years to get your garden to a state where it is virtually weed free without the need for chemical herbicides.  This is done by weeding out what you don’t want and preventing weed seeds left in the soil from germinating.  It’s all rather obvious really – catch weeds before they set seed (as yes, you have heard it before “One year’s seeding is seven years weeding”!?) and then mulch to stop weed seeds germinating.  In larger properties or where properties adjoin rural land, weeds from outside will try to come in so perhaps having no weeds is optimistic, but I truly believe that having manageable weeds is attainable.

Ultimately common sense gardening is all about balance, rather than perfection.  Remember that nature isn’t perfect – we just need to look in the mirror to be reminded of that!?