A Gardener’s Notebook

Like the slow food movement, slow gardening celebrates process

They've all been buzz words: 'Organic gardening,' 'permaculture,' 'biodynamic/French intensive' and 'sustainable' gardening

Special to the CambrianJuly 15, 2013 

If you’ve followed the many gardening movements over the years, you know that there is “something” for everybody. I’ve had time to “revisit” some gardening trends that have had some impact on nature enthusiasts, as I wait for my hip surgery in August.

Popular movements remembered were “organic gardening,” “permaculture,” “biodynamic/ French intensive” and “sustainable gardening.”

Trends like, “community gardens,” “square-foot gardens,” “urban gardens” and “edible landscaping” are popular.

All movements in gardening have one thing in common. They encourage respect for the environment and encourage “stepping lightly” on our precious earth.

Always looking for ways to simplify gardening techniques, the “slow gardening” movement from the ’80s has some things to offer those of us who want to get more pleasure (and less pain) from our hobby. The “slow food” movement, founded by Carlo Petrini in the 1980s, inspired the “slow gardening” movement.

“Slow gardening” was started by American horticulturalist Felder Rushing. At its deepest level, “slow gardening” has been described as an attitude rather than a “to do” checklist. Pleasure is in the process, being patient, and taking time to identify the needs of each plant. Think of gardening as a pleasant pastime and avoid putting your garden on a “fast track.”

When designing your garden on the principles of “slow gardening,” what you plant where is of importance.

Choose plants that thrive in your garden or you’ll be fighting an uphill battle. Plants grow better when they have similiar conditions to that of their natural habitat. Read labels. Find out where your plants originated.

Plants from the Mediterranean, Australia, some parts of Chile and South Africa thrive in California. By growing plants that are suited to your garden's microclimate, less work, feeding and watering will be required to get the best results.

As in all gardening movements, composting and water conservation and a thrifty approach to using water is integral to their philosophies. Collecting rain to use during the growing season and grouping plants according to their needs is featured in “slow gardens.” Composting can simply be a pile of leaves, kept moist, or a container in a corner of your yard. Slow gardening is about patience. Making your own compost is worth the wait.

Growing your own food does not have to be done on a grand scale. Even a few pots of greens and a few cherry tomatoes will keep you in touch with the seasons, providing you with the smell and taste of fresh produce.

Slow gardening reminds us to stop and smell the roses. Pluck and taste a leafy green. Build in some time to slow up, slow down and “sit a spell.” Appreciate the magic you are creating in design, color, and fragrance.

Lee Oliphant’s column is special to The Cambrian. Email her at cambriagardener@charter.net; read her blog at centralcoastgardening.com.

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