A Garden Is A Small Piece of a Larger Whole   Leave a comment

One of the exciting things about being a homeowner now is that I get to design the landscaping! This being me doing the planning, however, means that the process of designing a landscape is more involved than “that’s pretty, lets plant it”-type planning. In my world I’m not just designing a personal garden because it is not just a few few square feet of ground, instead I am designing one small part of a larger world and my decisions can make a difference in that world.

Obviously the landscaping has to fit and support our lives, needs, and desires. We want increased resale value, spaces to relax, beautiful views, shade, an area for eating and entertaining, an awesome herb garden, a vegetable garden, fruit trees, minimized watering and maintenance, and practical spaces like clothesline, solar oven, composter, rain barrels, and place for the garbage and recycling cans. This is where most people stop in their planning, but our yard isn’t just something that affects our lives.

Our garden affects the environment around us because it is part of it. The same climate and geology that shapes the native landscapes around us influence our garden, and a garden has the ability to influence the world around it. While as a society we have used water and other inputs to force landscapes to diverge from the native forces, there is a cost to that which is becoming greater and more apparent. Likewise we have brought plants into new areas where sometimes they become invasive weeds, crowding out the native plants and animals.

  • Landscaping that needs more water than what is natural for a region means that much more water acquired, treated, and transported, with all the losses and energy consumption along the way, and may reduce water available for other uses.
  • A yard that releases little to no stormwater to the storm drains means more water infiltrating the ground, and less water transporting sediment, oils, metals, pesticides, herbicides, and animal wastes into surface water bodies.
  • Landscaping that provides shade on a hot day reduces the cooling load and therefore energy needs of the house and electric grid.
  • Landscaping that includes lots of flowers encourages pollinators and can help gardeners and local farmers out, as well as reduce the need for harsh pesticides.
  • A garden that provides vegetables and fruit reduces food-miles. Although I am also considering that my purchases at the farmers’ market support “local” agriculture and farmers’ livelihoods so I don’t necessarily want to grow the fruits and vegetables that I can easily purchase at the farmers’ market.

A garden may be an individual thing, but it is also important to keep in mind that it is not independent of the larger systems that surround us, and that while it may be small it can have an effect, good or bad.


Posted June 7, 2011 by mayakey in conscious living, environment, gardening

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