|The wilderness on the edge of a Dallas garden.|
What was your garden before it was a garden?
It was a wilderness.
If you did nothing in your garden, the weeds, trees, bugs, grasses, animals, would just go wild. Like a teenager whose parents have left him alone while they go on an extended vacation, the wilderness will invite everything wild to come on in if there is no one at home to tend the garden.
While wild works in some garden situations, few people look at a complete wilderness and think “there’s a garden”. Sure, there can be a bit of wilderness in a garden, and probably should be, but it can’t be the whole garden.
That’s the first lesson I learned about having a healthy garden, about achieving hortus sanus. You have to remember that your garden was once a part of the wilderness and the wilderness wants your garden back.
The weeds want to grow there, in any bare spots they can find and even in places that aren’t bare. They will grow in the cracks of a patio, in the sludge left in the gutter, and even in a half-empty bag of top soil.
The rabbits want to eat there, and so do squirrels, chipmunks, voles, raccoons, mice, and unfortunately for some, deer. All of these wild animals have an appetite not just for weeds but also for the most expensive, most difficult to find, most treasured plant that you have personally planted in the middle of the wilderness you want to turn into a healthy garden.
The bugs want to eat, sleep and make merry in your garden, too. And not just good bugs, which any gardener would welcome as a key to hortus sanus, but all kinds of bad bugs, too.
Once we accept that the wilderness is always there in the background, waiting for its chance, then we aren’t surprised, frustrated or disappointed when we leave our gardens for a week or so and return to find that the wilderness is creeping back in, trying to take over again.
It is futile to try to completely remove the wilderness from your garden. In fact you shouldn’t. You want some of that wilderness – birds, bees, bugs, even a few bunnies – because they are part of a healthy garden. But feel free to fight back some of that wilderness – the weeds, the damaging predators, anything that wants to take over the garden completely.
Finally, when you are out there slaying weeds and other garden demons, remember that fighting back against the wilderness taking over your garden is not the same as fighting Mother Nature. Do not fight Mother Nature, do not try to break the laws of nature. That would be very unhealthy. It is futile and frustrating and you will fail.
But the wilderness, it can be tamed a bit.
Knowing that a big part of gardening is taming the wilderness and accepting that we can never tame it completely, is one of many steps towards a healthy garden, hortus sanus.