Last week I wrote a post encouraging people to smother their lawn instead of ripping it out before planting veggies. There’s some solid soil science reasons why I believe my suggestion to sheet compost the hell out of your sod is a good one, and I stand by the post.
But apparently there’s this thing called “Bermuda Grass” which is very heat and drought tolerant. It isn’t grown in the cool damp of the Northwest. (Hey, they don’t call us “Mossbacks” for nothing.) Consequently, I am not familiar with Bermuda grass, and based on reader comments, this is a very good thing. Apparently its roots run deep enough to connect directly to Hell, from whence it draws nourishment in the form of dissolved pure evil. Bermuda grass, I am led to understand, is a touch aggressive.
So, if you’ve got Bermuda grass, my “smother your sod” suggestion might not be the way to go. Instead, you might consider hiring a young priest and an old priest to perform a lawn exorcism. Or maybe rent a back hoe. In any event, you have my sympathy.
Which brings me to the main point of this post: the giving and taking of advice.
A guy on a Very Serious Soil Forum took Very Serious Issue with my post. He, you see, lives in Bermuda Grass country. After suggesting that my blog, were it a book, should be thrown “against the wall, out the window, or into the burning fire in a fireplace,” he concluded:
I took out 1500 square feet of lawn by ripping out every fricking piece of it [Bermuda grass]. I now have a pretty nice garden. Yes it is tedious hard work, but worth it now! I just love it when someone says “easy”, as in “gardening made easy” or “gardening for dummies” or some such claim. Nonsense!
While the call to libricide was a bit over the top, I don’t mind people disagreeing with me. We’re all starting from, literally, different places. We garden in physically different locations with different soil, different weather, different rainfall. We come to our soil from experientially different places: some have a lot of experience, some have no experience. We have different goals, different successes, different failures, different skills, different interests, difference amounts of time to dedicate and divergent years of learning and training to pull from.
The experiences I’ve had guide the suggestions I make on this blog, but I know – and I hope you do too – that those suggestions won’t be right for everybody, in every region. I’m reminded of my friend in Los Angeles who wanted suggestions for shielding her tomatoes from too much sun. Wow. Just wow. Too much sun? I didn’t know what to do with that. The idea that you would ever need to block sun to a fruiting plant – ever – is so far outside my experience zone that I just staggered around for a few days, imagining a world where tomatoes didn’t require cloching for all but six weeks out of the year to ripen.
But I take serious umbrage at the implication that you have to be somehow special to grow a garden. The gardener who took Very Serious Issue with my post implies in his response that is is nonsense to suggest that anyone can garden – that easy gardening, gardening “for dummies” (i.e, non-experts) isn’t possible. There is a strong implication that one must have some sort of super strength or wisdom or dedication or experiential skill to get a zucchini to grow.
Now that’s the real nonsense. You don’t have to be amazingly gifted, or spectacularly bright, or an expert in horticulture. You simply have to be willing to pay attention to your plants, think about garden timing from the perspective of a seed that wants to grow, and try different things. Sometimes, you have to try a few times and not give up when things go awry, as they will. But people all over the world – most of whom do not enjoy anywhere near your access to gardening gear, professional advice, or conveniences such as pressurized water – they successfully grow their own food. And you can too.
Gardening, my Very Serious Critic seems to say, is only for those willing to put in the “tedious hard work” that success requires. And perhaps he’s right, in his garden and by his standards. But there is no great magic to growing a garden, and there is no Secret Club just waiting to deny you admission (or if there is, they haven’t asked me to become a member).
So if you ever have someone tell you that something you’re doing in the garden is wrong or stupid or nonsense, remember that if you pay attention to your plants, you will become the best expert your garden can have. If the nonsense you are engaged in works great for you and gives the results you want for the effort you are willing to expend – keep doing it! If something isn’t working, by all means be open to suggestions and try something else. But don’t toss out your own knowledge because someone – even me! – tells you they know better. ‘Cause for your garden, and your life, and your time-management, they probably don’t.
The only prescription I will offer that I am confident will benefit every single one of my readers, now and ever onward, anywhere in the world, is to pay attention to what your garden is telling you. On the day you became a gardener – on the day you planted your very first vegetable – you automatically earned the right to try things your own way. If you keep trying, and listen carefully to the feedback from your garden, the right methods for your land and your life will become clear.
So go forth and learn, and pay attention to your plants, and have fun in your garden, and never stop finding the best ways to do things for you.
That’s no nonsense.2