Compassionate Gardening in a Conventional World
The foundational success of our country can be primarily attributed to the vast richness of our natural resources. From fertile farmlands to plentiful hardwood forests to diverse wildlife, the list goes on and on.
By Jennifer Schamber
[This article was first published in The Gateway Gardener March 2019 issue.]
The foundational success of our country can be primarily attributed to the vast richness of our natural resources. From fertile farmlands to plentiful hardwood forests to diverse wildlife, the list goes on and on. But one could make a solid argument that our success has been built on the exploitation of human beings, natural resources and wildlife. This painful truth is so engrained in our culture, that we now have this notion that nature was meant to be conquered, and that it is our right to do so. We have become so disconnected from the natural world, that we have forgotten that our place on earth wasn’t intended to be the destroyer of nature, but to be the ones to protect and defend it for our future offspring. Oftentimes these actions against nature are not intentional, we just tend to overlook potential consequences for the sake of a conventional and convenient lifestyle.
This concept can help explain why we continue our fight against nature in the way we manage our landscapes and outdoor spaces. The quest for what we perceive as perfection has caused a lot of damage, from negatively impacting soil health to decreasing the population of many insect and bird species. As more studies reveal the direct correlation between our disconnection with nature and a decline in human wellness, we are now coming to terms with the fact that the success of future generations cannot rely on exploitation. We need to rethink our expectations and look for ways to re-engage ourselves with the natural world.
In Nancy Lawson’s book, The Humane Gardener, she offers solutions for how we can embrace nature within our landscaping practices and work toward creating partnerships within the living systems that surround us. Some of her guiding principles include planting a wide diversity of native plants in the landscape, nurturing healthy habitats for beneficial animals and insects, removing hazards (like pesticides), “letting go” and allowing nature to be the guide, and allowing for regeneration of soils through natural composting and decay. A simple example of creating balance with nature might be allowing clover to grow as a turf alternative, it is a food source of choice for rabbits and it can help divert their attention from other plants. Another approach may be instead of continually trying to grow grass in acidic, shady conditions, consider encouraging moss to grow in the area. One of the easiest ways to be a humane gardener is to “leave the leaves” at the end of the growing season rather than raking. Leaving dead debris is not only beneficial for the soil, it is essential for many insects and can serve as a natural insulator for surrounding plants and roots.
Nature has always been so generous to us. You can plant some seeds in soil and without much more than some sun, water and a little nourishment, you can grow an array of plants that can feed our families, provide us with shelter, make our homes beautiful and give us air to breathe. Nature is an exponential giver, but how much more can it give without getting much back in return? Our compassion for nature will be the key for the future success and happiness of human beings, and now is the time to learn how to turn this compassion into action.
Jennifer Schamber is the General Manager of Greenscape Gardens in St. Louis, Missouri, and plays leadership roles in the Western Nursery & Landscape Association, GrowNative!, and the Landscape & Nursery Association of Greater St. Louis. She has earned Green Profit Magazine’s Young Retailer Award, and Greenscape Gardens was named the National Winner of the 2015 “Revolutionary 100” Garden Centers by Today’s Garden Center Magazine.