Denise and Lindsay's Iris

Denise and Lindsay's Iris
Photo by J Hulse

Thursday, December 1, 2011

SCIENCE OR ART (An Abundant Garden Needs Both)

On the one hand you have the scientist, who inevitably wins this battle.  Their arguments make too much sense to argue with.  And, they DO get results.  I guess you could say “Reason rules!”   On the other hand is the artist, saying “Who cares if it’s Rosaceae, or has dentate leaves.  It’s all about the experience!  Nurture your garden for a better response!  Some folks just aren’t adept at growing certain things!”

Well, I fall into the latter category.   I’m an artist, not a scientist.  And, it would be great to simply divine the answers to every gardening dilemma by taking peyote and waiting for the gods to speak.  But it really pays off to at least have some kind of idea about what really makes a garden grow.  I am a fierce advocate of intuition, and experiential learning.   So go ahead.  Do that.  Dive right in.  Pay attention to everything in your garden.  Touch it.  Respond to it.  Learn by trial and error.  But let’s give a nod to the scientists among us.  You should consider learning just a little about the following:
Ø  Plant culture:  This identifies a particular plant’s favorite growing conditions (hours of sun, preferred soil, how much water, at what temperatures does it thrive, what are it’s favorite nutrients),
Ø   Plant characteristics: The descriptions of all the defining parts of the plant. (This usually excludes the roots, but includes stems, leaves, fruit and flower)
Ø  IPM (Integrated pest management) 
Ø  Pathology (This is a fancy way of saying ‘ailments’.)  This is not necessarily one of the first things I’d ponder.  I’d wait until I saw the problem.  Then I’d research it.  I wouldn’t wring my hands waiting for something bad to happen
While there are those in the ‘scientific’ community who could very easily get lumped in with the hypochondriacs among us, fear of the unknown can consume any one of us at any time.  I know it’s terrible for me to say,  but sometimes, doesn’t it seem that there are those who anticipate peach leaf curl?  It’s almost as if they’re waiting with baited breath to experience failure.   Don’t they secretly hope your tomatoes will develop verticillium wilt, just so they can record the data to substantiate their arguments in favor of growing more disease-resistant varieties?  Of course, they do.  It is their research that could damn the tomato “Brandywine” to extinction, if they had their way.  We artists, seeing an opportunity to protest,  would rally to Brandywine’s defense.  We know, first hand, the rare burst of summer flavor from a sliced heirloom tomato salad in July; our very own, organic tomatoes.    Where will this tug-of-war end? 
I’m gravitating to a place somewhere in the middle, between Art and Science; a balanced approach to gardening.  I encourage tactile, hands-on, intuitive tending to your own little Eden.  Don’t rely solely on Sunset’s Western Garden Book, or Wikipedia.  Experience your garden.  Be the tomato.
If all else fails, do some selective shovel pruning.  (That means:  Dig it out!  Get rid of the damage. Start again!)

Let’s ruminate on this for a while.  Tell me how you feel.

Thanks for reading,


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