John Harrison has been gardening for over 40 years now. As well as writing for magazines and newspapers he’s the author of 8 books including the best selling Vegetable Growing Month by Month. He can be found online at www.allotment-garden.org
The Right Way to Garden
If you ask three gardeners a growing question you’re likely to get four answers at least. Which one is right? Well they all could be. The thing is there’s no perfect way to garden.
Chemical vs Organic
The big argument in gardening used to be between scientific growing and the muck and magic school, chemical versus organic if you will. Both systems, correctly applied, can produce great plants and crops. Neither system is perfect.
Chemical growing where the soil is treated just as an inert medium to hold fertilisers is arguably unsustainable. It can be damaging to soil ecosystems and the general environment. Organic systems can work well but if the soil becomes depleted or a pest appears in large numbers, plant growth will be checked and crop yields reduced.
To Dig or Not to Dig?
The modern gardening discussion that has superseded the organic debate is whether to dig over the ground or not. Traditional gardening emphasised the importance of double digging or at least annual single digging to produce the optimum conditions for plants to grow in.
No-dig growers put their effort into making compost and applying it in thick layers on the soil’s surface instead of tilling the soil. Once again, both systems can grow great plants.
The real question: ‘What is the right way to grow for me?’ I could go on with examples of diametrically opposed methods of gardening but I think I’ve made the point. The question gardeners need to ask isn’t ‘What is the right way to grow?’ but ‘What is the right way to grow for me?’
Never mind slavishly following systems and methods that others have laid down. We’re all different in the amounts of time and energy we have. Our soils vary and our climate varies. London’s climate has more in common with the Mediterranean than Scotland.
Yes, lets grow organically, it’s better for the planet, but accept that sometimes a judicious application of a chemical fertiliser can rescue a failing plant. No dig growing often works well but with some soils, like a heavy clay, traditional double digging is – in my opinion – a better way to get the soil in good heart and keep it there.
Pick and choose from all the ideas out there in books and on the web, try things out but don’t be afraid to change your ways if they fail. Eventually you’ll find the right way for you to garden.