The language we use serves to frame the value we put on events and things. A recent conversation brought a light-bulb moment for me. And I look forward to taking this example of re-framing further to review other aspects of my life.

A visitor asked for a tour of my balcony garden. I’m always reluctant to bring attention to it as it is very untidy and disorderly.

As I stepped into the small area, about to begin my tour (the area is the size of 4 baths!), these light-bulb words came out of my mouth: ‘it’s not a garden, it’s a laboratory’. Suddenly I realized why I’ve always felt uncomfortable about calling it a garden. The expectation for beauty, productivity and knowledge weigh heavily. But it now makes complete sense to me to see it as a laboratory – a valuable, but different project, than a garden! There are trials, practices and experiments being undertaken!

Here they are:

  1. Letting salad greens go to flower, to attract bees and other pollinators. Allowing the flowers to seed, to then have our own supplies of organic seed.
  2. Striking cuttings from neighbourhood gardens that might therefore grow well in local laneways.
  3. Testing containers to use in a little project called ‘Adopt a Plant’ at our monthly Farmers Market stall: egg boxes or toilet rolls or rolled newspaper
  4. Raising seedlings of our own lettuce and chard, for sale at the Farmers Market
  5. Using the stubs of spring onions, as seedlings to take to ‘Adopt a Plant’
  6. Testing the success of growing ginger, turmeric, sweet potato and potato from offcuts
  7. Raising cuttings from my sturdy indoor plant Hoya carnosa, to have as a backup and for gifts
  8. Creating an unkempt green spot on a unit balcony as a refuge for birds – they do come, and they inspect and strip the plants of ‘grubs’
  9. Trialing different methods of watering, and of pot-types, soil compositions
  10. Using compost created in the compost-bin, below the units
  11. Using conserved water – the pre-shower cold water collected in bucket, for balcony use, or water from the-morning-after’s hot water bottle
  12. Raising weeds for food – chickweed, onionweed, sow-thistle

So no more apologies from me about not being a good or tidy gardener. My interests lie more in learning from experiments than in the production of an aesthetically pleasing result!   And come to think of it, I’m more of a botanist than a gardener, a learner than a food producer.

Kit Shepherd September 2018