Lately I have been pondering the many challenges gardeners face in a rapidly changing world. It’s not just the climate that’s changing, its also the social and environmental issues that we cannot ignore. Rainfall is unreliable, we are experiencing extreme weather spikes, population growth is placing higher demands on natural resources, the footprint of a house takes up almost the whole building envelope, and there is less and less green space to allow kids and adults to unwind.
It all sounds a bit grim, but one has to remember the innovations that help us to garden smarter with less of an impact on available resources. There are advanced grey water systems, above and underground rainwater tanks, clever plant breeding, accessible soil amendments and mulches and a huge range of climate-matched plants. Its interesting to see many ‘Nana’ plants making a presence in gardens again and it got me thinking about my own Nan and the challenges she would have faced in her lifetime of gardening.
Thankfully I have my Nan’s 1916 copy of ‘The Australian Gardener” by F.H. Brunning and it makes great reading. There are many references to how to economise on water because everyone who lived in the country totally relied on rain water. There are great illustrations on how to grow plants from cuttings, how to save seed and store it for the following year and how to graft just about anything. People actually spent very little on the garden because they did everything themselves. Pest control in 1916 was a bit alarming though. Arsenic, kerosene, nicotine, linseed cake and something called Manurial Insecticide was recommended regularly.
Kitchen gardens were to be situated “as near as it may be convenient, so that communication with the kitchen and the stables may be made with facility.” Brunning gives out a serve to careless gardeners who do not do the required reading to for the “proper time and manner of sowing seed, blaming the seedsman for their non success.” Sound familiar?
There was a great push for people to grow their own food and tend their gardens, not just because of food shortages during the war years, but for the benefit of the whole community. In the words of Brunning “The brightness and beauty of flowers is a mental uplift in these drab wartime days while, if we grow our own vegetables, we not only live better, but live cheaper.”
Gardens have been healing the heart, mind and spirit for many years.