I find it almost impossible to wander my gardens without learning something. This morning as I examined my flowers, vegetables, and weeds, I found a lesson in the weeds. Some weeds are important. They provide food for the birds. They shade the soil. They attract insects away from my roses. The rose bed is a mess of weeds I keep. I haven’t seen aphids on my roses for years. Perhaps they can’t find them because of the weeds. Some weeds I pull, and some I leave. The garden works.
Some people talk about organic gardening or sustainable gardening. I like to think of my style of gardening as having balance. I usually add dirt I buy delivered from the garden store because my native soil is toxic from the outflow of a smelter nearby. I’m not sustainable because of the toxic soil. I do have balance. My gardens produce enough flowers and food to make paying for dirt acceptable.
We have our own well, so we don’t pay for water. Water from the well comes into the house then back out through the septic system. If irrigation water falls on the pathways, it eventually finds its way to the aquifer. Water lost to evaporation returns in the form of rain. My watering system has balance.
Balance on my farm means I don’t grow masses of one thing. I do garden year round. I harvest dozens of varieties flowers from February 14 to November 15. January is for starting seeds, so I don’t harvest much in January, but the kale is at its best in the middle of winter. We store some winter squash. By the time the kale starts to lose its sweetness, the asparagus is up, then the peas come on followed by artichokes, broccoli, and summer veggies. We always have something to eat. We seldom have too much of one thing except summer squash, but that is what food banks are for, to get rid of extra summer squash. The system works to feed us with enough left over to share.
When the costs of gardening are in balance with the benefits, the whole system works with very little input from me. I garden on about a half acre. I grow all our fruits and vegetables. I earn enough from the sale of flowers to pay for any other groceries I might buy. I feed three people with my tiny farm with food left over to share. This is what balance can accomplish.
I think I’ve mastered balance in the garden. Now, I need to learn to master balance in the rest of my life. I’d like to worry less. I’d like to be more creative. I’d like to be a better writer and a better musician. I need to learn what to get rid of, what to cut back, and what to keep in running my household. I need to learn how to balance my work with play. I’d like to cook less and have my cooking turn out tastier. I hope my garden can teach me its secret for balance.