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:
- 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.
- Striking cuttings from neighbourhood gardens that might therefore grow well in local laneways.
- 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
- Raising seedlings of our own lettuce and chard, for sale at the Farmers Market
- Using the stubs of spring onions, as seedlings to take to ‘Adopt a Plant’
- Testing the success of growing ginger, turmeric, sweet potato and potato from offcuts
- Raising cuttings from my sturdy indoor plant Hoya carnosa, to have as a backup and for gifts
- 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’
- Trialing different methods of watering, and of pot-types, soil compositions
- Using compost created in the compost-bin, below the units
- Using conserved water – the pre-shower cold water collected in bucket, for balcony use, or water from the-morning-after’s hot water bottle
- 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