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Gardening: Lazy summer

June 16, 2012

Taking it easy is what it should all be about in these increasingly hot summer days. As far as gardening goes, this is possible provided that you go about it the right way. As long as you are open to change it is not as challenging as you may think. If you are prepared to really go for it you will even be left with time to snooze in that hammock you will finally have time to put up!

Being a dedicated gardener does not mean that you must spend every waking minute fussing, fiddling and generally faffing around amongst the plants you love. In fact, many of them will actively thank you for leaving them alone to grow as nature intended instead of being poked, prodded and forced to comply with how human beings generally think they should appear. This unnaturalness is being promoted left right and centre in gardening magazines, books and related television programs which are always, somewhere amongst the greenery, promoting manufactured products of one kind or another in a world gone mad for profit. Loving plants, be they large, small or otherwise, should incorporate a healthy measure of respect for the natural life forms that they are. If the plant naturally tends to spread itself around in all directions at once then attempting to convince it to do otherwise is asking for nothing but problems with an end result that is far from satisfactory for all concerned. Getting to know and understand the plants you grow is the first step towards creating a garden to be proud of. Glowing with health, bursting with luxuriant growth, which, no matter the weather, always presents you with astonishing rewards that we all dream of having without spending a fortune in money or time. It is quite a possible dream.

First and foremost is the need to dispense with most preconceived ideas of gardening. With that overpowering urge to impress ‘others’ with neat and tidy magnificence you can blow their minds, if you really feel that this is imperative, by allowing your garden to grow to its own rhythm and to orchestrate its own personal symphony.

One of the easiest ways to encourage your garden to ‘grow its own way’ is to allow both perennial and seasonal plants, of all kinds, to self seed freely. Then, if you feel it necessary, thin out or transplant resultant seedlings to other locations once they are large enough to handle.

However, do try and leave some in their preferred spot as, quite often, they will outgrow all the rest and often choose to grow in very dry areas and thrive with very little, if any, additional water.

I have been slowly introducing this principle into my own garden/orchard over recent years and this year and for the first time, at least 95 per cent of all flowers, fruit, herbs and vegetables are all self seeded. I have more healthy, pest free seedlings than I know what to do with.

The major point being that I only cultivate what are known as ‘heritage’ varieties from which a collected seed produces exactly the same quality of plant since the parent plant and all have been around for hundreds of years. These are often more pest resistant and drought tolerant than the so-called ‘improved’ hybrids. Allowing plants grown from hybrid seeds to reproduce does not work as the following generations are of decreasing quality and health.

Allowing different kinds of plants to intermingle at will, as long as no one species is allowed to dominate its neighbours, is also part and parcel of this ‘lazy garden’ plan as different species often complement each other and deter both pests and diseases. Gardening in this way may at first sound like chaos but correctly guided it doesn’t work out this way although, those with an ingrained preference for neatness and regimental order are quite liable to throw their hands up in horror at the natural result.

Not everyone would be happy with aquilegias amongst celery and borage in the cabbage patch. Very few gardeners are prepared to allow radishes, cauliflower et al to remain in place while they produce their towering spikes of first flowers and then seed. However if you are prepared to allow your garden to regenerate itself time and time again with the carefully selected addition of more varieties, the results will be positively encouraging. Garden work, aside from the bare essentials, will be reduced to a minimum. Be brave and give it a try!

Please continue sending your gardening queries to Remember to include your location. Answers to selected questions will appear shortly in a future issue of the magazine. The writer will not respond directly by e-mail. E-mails with attachments will not be opened. The writer’s garden is not open to the public.