What is your gardening style?

I have always been somewhat conflicted about human’s role in nature. I grew up with a 40 acre woodlot on our farm and always liked the wild woods I experienced as a kid. So I came to gardening with a mixed viewpoint. I wanted to garden somewhat on the wild side, but I know that nature does not always organize itself in pleasing ways to humans and this is certainly true of our gardens. Gardens, if not well planned and tended, can become a wild tangle or a weed patch.

I was forced to garden on the wild side when I had an extensive landscape, I only had time to make rounds every three years to prune and rejuvenate most ornamental shrubs and trees. Those areas definitely got a little wild. I was never tempted to do topiary, but I certainly appreciate the results of those who can spend the time it takes to maintain green elephants or other plant carved animals or forms. Of necessity, I annually kept roses, fruit trees and grapes well pruned for production.

Our choices of garden design styles and types are numerous. We can plant gardens of California native plants or drought tolerant Mediterranean plants that are well adapted to our dry summers. The home I recently purchased features a native plant garden in the front. There is no lawn to mow, but some deadheading required. The biggest challenge is getting to know the plant’s names and needs as I am not knowledgeable about California natives. This challenge keeps my brain active to learn new garden plants and their care.

In terms of garden styles there are cultural styles endemic to certain regions. Therefore, we have Chinese gardens, English, French and Italian gardens and within there are subsets such as Italian Renaissance gardens, English Cottage gardens and Victorian gardens. A Japanese garden is designed with an appreciation and respect for nature. The use of light and dark shades, texture, space and form, rocks, ponds are all used in a unifying mode. Japanese gardens have been around for 1500 years and have evolved over time, but always have respect for nature as the dominant theme. There is a Japanese garden near my home that I admire each time I drive by. One has to admire the beauty of a well planned, well planted and well maintained garden in any style.

Then there are other specialty gardens like container gardens, water gardens, pollinator gardens or raised bed gardens. We may engage several garden types in one landscape. Many of us nurture some container grown plants and perhaps some raised beds for vegetables, some flowers for butterflies and a water feature as well.  Water gardens can vary from a small fountain or pond to elaborate pump operated streams with water falls, fountains and ponds of Koi carp and various aquatic plants.

Two new raised bed for growing beds for growing winter vegetables constructed of concrete blocks and filled with compost and loam.

Raised beds can be of varying heights and for those who are disabled or have special needs; the raised bed can be at a height to permit easy access from a wheel chair for planting and harvesting. Raised beds can be constructed from a variety of materials. The choice comes down to preferences, availability and cost.  Many have been constructed of redwood, cedar or other naturally rot-resistant wood. Though lasting a long time, these eventually will need to be replaced. Raised beds can also be done more permanently in stone, steel, concrete, cinder blocks or bricks. For more information on pros and cons of materials for raised beds see: https://www.houzz.com/ideabooks/16676705/list/8-Materials-for-Raised-Garden-Beds/

Recently, I constructed two new raised beds with concrete blocks for growing winter vegetables. Raised beds have the advantage of draining better in the winter, warming earlier in spring, easier to cultivate, avoiding soil compaction and provide for a change of soil if the native soil is stony, heavy clay or sand that is less desirable for growing plants. Some say they keep pests at bay, but in my experience don’t count on that.

If you don’t have room for a garden because you have a small back yard or live in an apartment, then perhaps a community garden will work for you. Community gardens have increased greatly in recent years. There are over 18,000 community gardens in the USA and Canada. Renting a small plot in a community garden provides an opportunity to grow flowers, herbs and vegetables.  Community gardens increase human interactions and build friendships and cooperation and provide a connection to a more natural environment. Some community gardens are tended communally and the bounty is shared among the participants. For more information on community gardens see the American Community Gardening Association website: https://communitygarden.org/.

Whatever your gardening style; may your garden days be happy ones.

If you have a gardening related question you can contact the UC Master Gardeners at 209-953-6112. More information can be found on our website:  http://sjmastergardeners.ucanr.edu/CONTACT_US/

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  • Blog Author

    Lee Miller

    Lee Miller is a University of Delaware graduate and retired fisheries biologist, he gardens on 10 acres and makes wine each year with the help of a cadre of friends. However, his first love is gardening and he grows various fruit trees, heirloom ... Read Full

    Marcy Sousa

    Marcy Sousa is the San Joaquin County UC Master Gardener Program Coordinator. She is a Stockton native and enjoys teaching others about gardening. She has her bachelors from Stanislaus State in Permaculture. She has been with the program since 2007. Read Full

    Nadia Zane

    Nadia Zane is a UC Master Gardener, a landscape designer and Stockton native. She has a fondness for California native plants and sustainable landscaping, which she utilizes in her work for Native Beauty Garden Design. She is a member of the CA ... Read Full
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