Rules of Thumb, 30x30, and the Laws of Nature

Spring Landscape (Rain), A. Krehbiel My mother had a commonplace book in which she recorded, by hand, in beautiful cursive, proverbs, sayings, and quotes that struck her as interesting, thought provoking, or wise. I also love sayings, and quotes, and mantras, but mostly I’ve collected rules of thumb, those short pithy statements that condense ways of dealing with life on earth in the same way that proverbs give advice on how to behave in prudent, trouble-avoiding ways.  Rules of thumb exist for every field of human endeavor. There are the general ones, such as the 80% rule, or Pareto Principle, that gets applied in sometimes surprising ways—"eighty percent of every thing is trash,” someone will say, or another will say that “80% of your output comes from 20% of your efforts,” for example. The 80/20 ratio is useful in all sorts of contexts. For example, in a perennial garden, the general rule (backed up by scientific evidence) is that about 75-80% of the plants should be native (lo

The Ugly Garden Kerfluffle


Browsing through garden blogs today, I noticed (belatedly) that there's been something of a kerfluffle* due to a post at Garden Rant condemning "ugly, unsightly vegetable gardens." Went and read the rant, which is precisely that, an exercise in hyperbole, even a polemic, if you will.

Yes, with veggies, it's better to weed than not to weed. And it's generally considered better to stake tomatoes than not. Healthy plants are better than not. However, rows do not necessarily rule. Square-foot gardening and sowing in patches is perfectly respectable. And so forth.

Mess is in the eye of the beholder, I guess. Are we gardening so things look pretty or are we gardening so that we have some good fruits and vegetables, while also fitting in with our ecosystem--and possibly helping to nourish it? if the latter, messy gardens are something of a necessity, and whatever works best ecosystem-wise probably is best, design-wise.

Myself, if forced to choose, prefer the principles of permaculture to the principles of axial symmetry and don't think I've ever met an ugly plant. (Ugly is not the same as needing help, after all.) To me the "ugliest" garden, even in need of help, is lovelier far than a manicured, chemical-addicted "landscape" of turf grass and trees.

Anyone (all of us) who is learning while gardening is going to mess up. OK. In my book, anyone who grows good produce by organic methods has a beautiful garden, regardless of appearances. And if you include a small native flower patch as pollinator habitat, you're on the way to gardening enlightenment.

So why waste your time feeling hurt and reacting negatively to some deliberately over-the-top prose? Go out and garden in the way that best suits your site and your self. If you're just starting out, visit the Chicago Botanic Garden's page, "How to Start a Small-Space Vegetable Garden."

Happy gardening to all.

*I think chard is beautiful--to me it looks like "kerfluffle" sounds.

Comments

Anonymous said…
Just read the garden rant, and my word it has provoked some responses. I happen to agree with you, mess is in the eye of the beholder. I have to say I am more of a neat gardener because, while I love my home grown veggies, I also like my garden to be a nice tidy place (at the moment it is anything but) to be but there are some allotments up the street that are very very messy but I am willing to bet that they produce some very special stuff.
igrewthistoo, I guess I think in terms of orderliness rather than neatness, per se. A garden can be very orderly without appearing neat. Thanks for stopping by.