People are often surprised that I don't grow food. Actually when I think about it I grow a lot of edible things! Passionfruit until it died, kiwi fruit until it stopped fruiting, olives, grapes, feijoa, strawberry guava, self seeded loquat and lots of herbs - parsley, garlic chives, thyme, rosemary, oregano and sage come to mind. And I keep meaning to get some artichoke plants. Yet growing food is not my main priority, it is rather like a welcome outcome but not part of the main aim.
The main aims of my gardening activities are (a) aesthetic and (b) doing without water apart from rain. They nearly always were my aims. In the beginning (decades ago) I grew vegetables but found they needed fussing. The tomatoes got sooty, the beans and peas wilted unless I watered them regularly. I simply didn't really enjoy looking after them.
Then I discovered Edna Walling and Gertrude Jekyll and took their philosophy on board. Although a garden is not natural I strived to make the garden look natural. (What is my style? Eclectic? Wild? Cottage?)
So I started trying to develop garden pictures with plants that, once established, didn't need extra water or even TLC - except for carefully nurturing the soil with compost and mulches. I would give them Loving Care, but not Tender Loving Care. In this quest there were many casualties. Some friends and relatives found this appalling. I rationalized it - the plants were given a chance but if they didn't survive basically were not tough enough for this particular garden.
My type of gardening is a luxury if you're hungry, or even if you couldn't buy organic fruit and veg at the farmers markets. But here are my justifications for not aiming to grow food like most people who think of themselves as slow gardeners do:
- It provides food for my soul and hopefully for other like minded people
- It establishes a chemical free micro environment for wildlife
- It has a diverse range of plants
- It provides food for birds and other wildlife.
- It is very different to the current fashion for instant designed gardens with a small number of commonly used "low maintenance" plants and lots of Garden Features such as courtyards and Water Features, and
- it provides a model for enjoyable, ecologically responsible and sustainable gardening without the need even for a water tank.