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Back To Nature

Report From An Opinionated Gardener – September 22

Two recent interactions have me thinking about how home-landscapers need to start paying more attention to the natural world.

Last Sunday I presented a pruning seminar at the garden center and as usual there were quite a few “off topic” questions. One attendee remarked that if an inch of compost or manure was good as a top dressing/soil amendment, wouldn’t six or twelve inches be better?

I remarked that it’s good to look at what’s happening to plants in a natural setting. Mother Nature is top dressing the soil all the time. Leaves and stems are falling, breaking down, and amending from the top down, and animals are pooping in the woods and fields. But none of that amounts to six to twelve inches of finished compost or manure on an annual basis. The leaves that fall in the woods probably compost down to an inch or two at most, and the animal poop isn’t even that thick! As gardeners we’re better off if we emulate Nature rather than try and outdo her.

In another conversation someone mentioned that maybe it wasn’t good to have a groundcover under the shrubs because those plants would be “robbing moisture and nutrients from the shrubs.” Again, I thought of plants grow in the wild. Plants grow one on top of each other all the time, from groundcovers to understory up to canopy plants. If the soil is fertile, and the rain or irrigation is abundant, there shouldn’t be a problem.

From how we plant to the ways we maintain our gardens, it’s smart to let our surroundings should be our guide. Whether you live in a desert, rainforest, or a temperate, deciduous forestland, look to the regional landscape and notice how the plants grow and thrive…then copy this in your own garden.

Not only is there no fertilizer fairy sprinkling time-release pellets here, the amount of organic matter from the leaves and pine needles, and random animal poop, just isn't that thick.

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