If my Facebook feed and many prominent gardening blogs are any indication, “science-based gardening” is trending. Here is my feeling about that:
Hey, I know there’s a lot of bad gardening advice out there, and it’s great that there are strong and trustworthy voices ready to stamp it out, but gardening is just not something that I (and dare I say, the majority of gardeners?) approach scientifically.
For me, gardening — like cooking — is something to be approached intuitively, even sentimentally, rather than methodically. I would rather bake and eat the chocolate chip cookie made from my mom’s recipe on the yellowed index card than the one whose sugar/butter ratio was tested and deemed superior by a panel of food science doctoral students. (Yes, I can taste her love in the cookies, don’t tell me I can’t!)
Same with gardening. My planting choices are often guided by pure emotion, and I’m not ashamed to admit it. The little voice that tells me I really oughtn’t to plant a banana tree in my yard just because I saw it done in that little garden in Charleston with the amazing wrought-iron gate with the pineapple motif and the whole vignette just about made my heart stop — that’s a voice I often just ignore. The banana is going in!
Years ago I got a soil test done. I carefully followed the instructions given to me by the Master Gardeners: I selected several different spots in my yard, dug a few inches down, collected the prescribed amount of soil, placed it into the designated receptacles, and sent it down to the lab at Virginia Tech. The helpful people at the Extension service sent back a detailed report indicating acidity levels and the presence of micronutrients, etc. I recall they suggested that I add a quantity of lime to my lawn — even specifying how much per square yard and such. It was awfully nice of them.
I carefully folded the report back into the envelope, stuffed it into my Gardening for Dummies book, and drove to the garden center, where I purchased plants that spoke to my eye and heart, which that year was probably columbine and clematis.
I never did lime my lawn.
Unfortunately, the way I usually learn what NOT to plant in my yard is by heartbreaking trial and error, and not by flipping through Foolproof Plants of the Midatlantic. I have learned many other life lessons in this same painful and unscientific manner, and it seems to be the only way that things stick. And let’s face it, sometimes it’s more fun not learn the lesson at all. Sometimes life is best lived by moving from one gloriously impractical idea to the next.
So I shall continue to stumble along, letting my ridiculous, irrational brain guide my gardening choices. And the banana shall be planted forthwith!