It's not that there's never a time and place for should. Psychopaths and sociopaths behave badly and they should be more caring and considerate of others.
But most of us are not psychopaths or sociopaths. We are just ordinary well meaning people who often feel guilty and drained of pleasure because we feel we have disobeyed our inner, insistent shoulds.
This applies in the garden just as it is does in other parts of life.
Here are a few garden shoulds.
1. You should mulch the garden.
Organic mulches certainly are good for the soil, promoting healthy soil as they decompose. This helps plants to be strong and to resist diseases and pests. They also suppress weeds and conserve water.
A downside to covering the soil with mulch is that the mulch prevents certain native bees from building their nests in burrows in the ground in urban areas. This would be a shame because our native bees are precious important pollinators and their presence increases biodiversity. Australia has around 1,500 species of native bees, but most of the bees we see are the introduced commercial honeybee.
Some people simply don't like the look of mulch, seeing it as untidy, and they are perfectly entitled to this position.
2. You should water the garden.
As I walk around I see many gardens watered unnecessarily. If you want to grow food you probably do need to water - although before European settlement people managed pretty well foraging for bush tucker.
If you don't want to water the garden, like me, here are three tips: mulch the soil, use dense groundcovers and grow plants that aren't thirsty and can survive dry times.
3. A garden needs regular upkeep.
It depends on the garden. A formal garden with carefully shaped and sculpted shrubs would need regular upkeep if you want it to look good.
I garden whenever I can, but I get busy with other aspects of life and sometimes don't manage to garden for weeks at a time. When I can't get into the garden for a while, the effect on me is serious. I miss it so much, I practically come out in a rash. But I need the garden more than the garden needs me. The garden does all right. There may be a few more weeds. Jobs like digging up and dividing plants will still be there when I get back. As will all the other garden tasks.
4. You shouldn't use insecticides or pesticides.
It depends on the insecticide. Toxic ones like Round up definitely harm the environment, but what are we to do when weeds or insect pests reach plague proportions? If we don't control them somehow they will take over.
For the last decade or so I have managed my garden without using insecticides or pesticides. Once I was challenged by an invasion of vine weevils, and managed to obtain some beneficial nematodes that are parasitic on weevils, and a natural biological way of solving the problem.
Another time there was an infestation of caterpillars on a Eucalyptus leucoxylon rosea. First I tried squashing them by hand (gloved!) but there were too many so I chopped the whole tree down to the ground with the caterpillars on it, and put the lot in the recycling bin. I hope they died there. I feel uncomfortable that I just might have passed the problem on to someone else. Anyway, soon the tree grew back - multi- trunked and minus the caterpillars.
5. The garden should be for living in, not just for looking at.
I heard this should at the International Garden Design conference from one of the garden design stars. Of course I immediately felt upset and that somehow I had failed because my garden is looked at from inside the house much more often than being physically occupied. Partly because most people seem reluctant to be outside when it's cold and don't like being bitten by mosquitos when it's hot.
Once I stopped feeling like a failure and regained my capacity to think, I realized I'm perfectly happy with this. If people come into the garden, that's fine. If they choose to look at it through the windows that's fine too. As long as they don't completely turn their backs to the windows - that's going a step too far!
6. You should use indigenous plantings.
I am a member of IFFA (Indigenous Flora and Fauna Association). Its aims are pure and to be supported: to promote the appreciation, study, conservation and management of indigenous flora and fauna through research and discussion, networking and advocacy, and information exchange.
But today's world is multicultural, and even if you tried, you couldn't stop change. Some non indigenous flora and fauna have naturalized, and don't necessarily harm the environment. We want to save as many threatened species as we can. But personally, I suffer from too much doubt to be able to maintain a hard line stand on just about anything.
7. You should grow your own food.
Sigh ... yes, maybe we should. Heaps of advantages for individuals and for the planet. It's just that I prefer to have a different kind of garden. There's lots of self sown parsley and that's a food, but it wouldn't really give you a balanced diet.
So ... let's grow what we like, and never forget: Green is good!
I suggest we write our garden shoulds on a piece of biodegradable paper, rip up the paper and add the shreds to the compost heap.