Professing Gardeners

I didn’t really get into gardening until we bought our house that had a back and front-yard that were pretty much empty slates. So I started digging around, both literally in the garden and metaphorically on-line. After a few hits and misses, I came across something that was right up my alley. It was a group of academic horticulturalists and botanists, all with PhD’s, who called themselves “The Garden Professors”. They have a blog, a Facebook group, and multiple book publications between them. But probably their most helpful resource so far has been this collection of Horticultural Myths and factsheets. The reason I enjoyed their material so much was because their main focus was to apply scientific principles and peer reviewed research to the world of home gardening, so as an anaesthetist with an honours degree in biochemistry and a new found love of gardening, I could really sink my teeth into it. I like to think of it as “Evidence-Based Gardening” (EBG)! The internet is full of gardening woo, as are many books by so-called experts, so it was quite refreshing to have some more objective input, and I quickly identified numerous mistakes I’d made by following advice from some “Garden Guru”.

However, as much as I’ve learnt from The Garden Professors, and enjoyed reading their publications, Evidence-Based Gardening (EBG) faces many of the same challenges as Evidence-Based Medicine. There are many gaps in the evidence, and often what evidence is available, isn’t directly applicable to my specific situation, whether that be rainfall, available light, temperature extremes and so on. I think gardening faces an additional challenge in that it is much harder to procure funding for horticultural research as opposed to medical research, so they are often left to extrapolate data from agriculture where much more funding is available.

At the end of the day though, gardening for me is about more than just have perfect plants and following strict rules about what I can and can’t do. So while I am keen to continue my EBG practices where possible, I will also, like medicine, remember that it is an art as well, and maybe even a little bit of woo from time to time!

Garden Variety

“I said, ‘It’s certain there is no fine thing
Since Adam’s fall but needs much labouring.”
Adam’s Curse, W.B. Yeats

In the beginning, God created mankind to be gardeners. Unfortunately we stuffed it up, and it’s now not as easy as it should be! I never had much interest in gardening growing up, and my sporadic efforts at mowing the lawn or starting a herb garden once i moved out didn’t amount to much. Instead, I kind of fell into it by accident when we bought a house in 2009 that had a small front yard, and quite a sizeable back yard. They looked pretty barren, so I felt compelled to add something to this blank canvas. I had no idea where to start, but figured if i’m going to be spending a lot of time and money on this endeavour, then it would be nice to get something to eat from it along the way! So i focussed primarily on fruit and veggies, which, given my lack of any artistic flair, also provided the excuse that if it looked ugly, I could just pass if off as function over form!

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