One of the things I have a problem with on social media is when a person treats a particular gardening system as if it is the end all of gardening, or at least seems to refer to a particular author’s work without much of an effort to find out what other folks have discovered and recommend. If you have done any reading on gardening, you may have noticed some authors present a series of steps laid out in detail on the author’s preferred way of gardening. These are what I call “gardening systems”.
Thinking About Gardening SystemsOne the recent discussion on Facebook didn’t go anywhere, but it did remind me of my deep and lingering thoughts about gardening systems, their value, and their problems. So I think it is time to discuss gardening systems as a general category.
Pros1. A gardening system can give a lot of novices a quick start to gardening.
2. Some of the most important basics of gardening are often explained and give the user some long time principals to work off of.
Cons1. Despite some very good gardeners and very smart people putting systems together, it is very hard to get everything needed into one system.
2. Some systems are put together by less than competent gardeners. You simply cannot determine if this is true by reading one or two books.
3. Systems tend to be expensive to start.
4. Many systems rely on building or buying startup items that are often not needed.
5. Systems often encourage beginners to start out with really big gardens that that are supposed to be easy to maintain. But new gardeners are not experienced enough to keep up with the expectations they are given. To be fair, this often happens with new gardeners in general.
You will note I had a hard time coming up with good reasons to follow a system. I attribute this to a bias based on the fact that I have never used one, or felt the need to use a system. As a kid growing up we never did nor did my retired agricultural extension agent grandfather.
Principal Based Approach Often More BeneficialRealistically, most of the systems out there will do what they are intended to do for 5 to 10 years, but in the end they are not complex enough to go beyond that without major tinkering or reconstruction. So if you are new to gardening, by all means experiment with any system that does not require a lot of money. In the meantime continue to research and find out the principles and science involved. This gives you the opportunity to garden on a principal based approach. By focusing on the principals of gardening you will give yourself the ability to adjust what you do to changing conditions. Principal based gardening is also very important to being able to be flexible with your gardening location. This was especially apparent to me from the time I grew vegetables in pots in Afghanistan. My wife shipped me some of the basics, but much of it I had to rig from whatever ended up being convenient. You can’t do that unless you know why you need it.
So go ahead and get a few books and start your research. Plant the first year however you feel best and learn from whatever happens. When you wrap things up this fall get some more books and keep studying. The reality is that the best gardeners are also avid learners, and that is they best system you can ever hope for.