Predictions for gardening in 2014 – we will continue growing and then eating our way through the most food-obsessed decade EVER. And I’m not sure that’s A Good Thing.
I’ve been trawling through lots of pundit’s predictions for gardening in 2014. Growing more edibles features strongly. Then there’s growing more herbs. And don’t forget more backyard fruit growing. As well as growing more food indoors using hydroponics.
I’m happy for people to grow their own food. I’m happy for them to enjoy talking about it, and wanting to share that knowledge. After all, any gardening is good gardening, isn’t it? And I hope that GardenDrum presents a balance of information for those who like to grow food, and those who do not.
But edible gardening has become such a crusade in parts of the garden media, and so all-pervasive among the rest that you start to wonder if beginner gardeners know that it’s possible to grow something you don’t eat. Has growing edibles hijacked 21st century gardening?
My mother use to annoy me with her saying:
Goodness me, do you eat to live, or live to eat?!
I thought that saying was a kill-joy, puritanical ignoring of the pleasure of sharing food among friends and family, and the delight of tasting the many wonderful and delicious foods now available to us. I thought I’d NEVER sound like my mother. [Ha! I know. Oscar Wilde tells us otherwise].
But then the decade of cooking shows started. And the decade of TV gardening shows with story after story after story about how to grow fruit and vegetables. And the decade of seeing the gardening shelves in book shops become entirely devoted to books about growing edibles. (When the gardening section hadn’t been completely taken over by cooking books that is).
[Disclaimer – I have ONE tomato plant (a bit manky-looking and none yet ripe), and several herbs mixed into my garden beds. I have 3 strawberry plants because I like the flowers.]
My observations on edible gardening are that:
1. New gardeners, and even those with some experience will find that growing edibles is NOT the easy, ‘let’s walk lightly on the world‘ and idealistic gardening heaven they imagine. It takes time, water and fertiliser, and perhaps even resorting to pesticides to produce any quantity of truly edible food, let alone a bounteous harvest. Their probable failure will turn them off gardening for life.
2. Constant and unrelieved talk about growing edibles makes gardeners who can’t or don’t (OK maybe this is just me) feel like we are the ‘also-rans’ of the gardening world. I grow trees, and drought-hardy shrubs, and pretty flowers and colourful foliage. I think about people-friendly design, and grow plants to make my world and I hope ‘our world’ a more beautiful and habitat friendly place. I do not covet my plants’ stored starches.
But now I feel like a gardening failure when I admit to never having grown a really successful vegetable crop. A few tomatoes saved from the possums, the odd strawberry saved from the skinks and some very odd-looking snow peas that should not have been saved from the snails are my big success stories. I hang my head in shame.
3. I worry that people’s intense interest in growing food is not driven so much by pro-community, utopian ideals, but is rather evidence of an obsession with food in general. And I worry that that obsession is symptomatic of a self-indulgent, self-absorbed lifestyle and society that does not augur well for future communities and humanitarian ideals.
[The need for a perfect cup of coffee every day is, of course, exempt]