Why On Earth Would You Do This To Your Yard?

Being the First Part of an Update for Fall

Side yard, looking a little jungle-y. It's all those squash and zucchini!
Side yard, looking a little jungle-y. It’s all those squash and zucchini!

Despite living and gardening on Main Street, SoBo, just a few blocks from churches, an upscale neighborhood, local government offices, downtown restaurants and businesses, I confess that our yard has, over the months, at times, just a little bit, to some people’s eyes, looked, well…a little “jungle-y”.

For her patience during all of this, I am extremely grateful to my wife, and to various neighbors some of whom have embraced it and been very cool and curious about it; some of whom have seemed quiet and non-plussed. C’est la vie.

This maybe begs the question, why on earth would you do all of this “stuff” when you have a corner property in a nice part of town with high traffic and extreme visibility and a (formerly) respectable landscape design of boxwoods and liriope?

I can think of three big reasons I’ve learned since I began gardening, learning permaculture, and installing edible landscaping.

Reason One – Plant Therapy

I started getting into Permaculture right around the time I was getting out of a really terrible job. It was a tumultuous and, yes, depressing time but gardening was simultaneously calming and invigorating.

Growing food and planting trees was the best therapy I never knew I needed, and it started by just observing the Nature already around me, which—amazing boon!—helped me pay more attention to myself.

Now, 18+ months on, it makes me really happy to walk all over my yard and point out trees, borders, and beds that I planted, harvested from, or will one day in the future. There’s a variety of interaction now between me and the physical place I live that I’d never appreciated before and wouldn’t trade for the world.

Reason Two – A Safe Place to Fail

If you’re approaching 40 (as I was) and looking for a new career and a blissful path, you’re going to have to do a lot of learning and fast, but learning involves failure and at that age failure can cost you money and time.

You can read all the gardening and permaculture books you want but until you’re out there disturbing soil and getting your hands dirty you don’t really know much. Not without personal experience. Starting in my yard with a few fruit trees was a small, safe bet that has paid off handsomely.

“Now, you too can fail from the comfort of your own home!”

Reason Three – Howdy, Neighbor!

Gardening is a great way to meet people! Especially if you’re doing something that’s not the norm.

From the moment you break ground out there, walkers—and even drivers!—will stop to ask what you’re up to. Most people are happy to see fruit trees and flowers being planted, but if you can reach into a front yard border and pull out some raspberries or fresh peppermint, then people get really excited.

There are very few days when I’m out there working and someone passing by doesn’t stop to talk, and lately I’ve had more people asking for advice about some of their own plants and yard ideas!

These are people I would otherwise have very little to no interaction with other than a friendly nod as they pass by, but the plants bring people in. It’s a thing that builds community, and it’s something I never expected.

Ultimately, You’re Growing Yourself

I could list other reasons why you might want try some of this edible landscaping and alternative garden stuff—reasons like keeping harmful chemicals from your family, friends and pets, or supporting pollinators, wildlife species, and general biodiversity—but that can wait.

I’ve written enough of this for today. It’s time to get out there in the yard and cultivate my self. After all, Fukuoka wrote:

The ultimate goal of farming is not the growing of crops, but the cultivation and perfection of human beings.

I’ve got a long way to go, but perfection sounds like a fine aim. Especially if there’s going to be raspberries!

Gardening is Good!
~Ben

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