Much of gardening is about making tiny adjustments, improving our soil or conditions, giving our plants a more favourable micro-climate or a longer growing season. Not all the things we can do are going to make the same impact. Obviously in times of drought a good watering will make much more difference to the final result than would adding more fertiliser. But all other things being reasonable then we need to consider how much improvement does one more watering, a dose of fertiliser or say, a thorough hoeing of weeds, make.
As they say on so many occasions “don’t try this at home”. We know why. For it’s not just these litigious times, it’s also how easy it is for someone to suffer a calamity if they are totally unaware of what might just happen if they get it wrong. Now gardening has a veneer of natural or safe greenness yet it can be every bit as dangerous as doing almost anything else. Mowers, rotary cultivators and hedge trimmers relentlessly exact their revenge each year. However gardening has another set of unforeseen consequences, those fickle ways of nature.
One of the reasons many of us may have for growing our own fruit and vegetables is because we wish to be sure our food is as unpolluted as possible. Whether you want to be completely Organic or not it seems fair to assume no-one actually wants to have more risky substances contaminating their soil and plants than can be avoided. After all they can be to no advantage and only pose a threat. But where do you start to reduce potential risks and which ones are worth worrying about?
I guess one of the commoner reasons many of us grow our own produce is to avoid the pollution and contaminants that we fear may be found in some commercial fare. Of course fresh food tastes better, it is very economical, and we can have a choice of crops and varieties not usually sold in shops. Well versed organic growers will also know that organic food is not just better for you because of it's freedom of deliberately applied pesticides but also because of it's higher levels of scarce nutrients and vitamins.
Plant lives and how we alter them.In a way a garden is not so much a thing as a process, even the soil changes over years. Meanwhile the plants come and go. In our vegetable and salad beds some last but weeks while top fruit seems permanent though in reality trees are also transient. Few garden fruit trees make a hundred years despite gnarled appearance and spurious measures. Surprisingly your hedge may contain your oldest plants as the continual cutting back confers real longevity far beyond the range of most. In similar manner some crops can be effectively pruned to live a tad longer.
Now I do not wish to put you off buying new gardening books (especially as I have several in print) but there is a problem with them. They are all rather too well finished, rather too well polished, all the anecdotes and unique observations and asides have usually been edited out. I should know; trying to get a book's script past a jobs-worth sub-editor without it being butchered is near impossible. Sub-editors seem to believe their role is to 'make-it-over' not merely to remove inconsistencies and erratum's or translating into the house' style.
It is amazing how many gardeners still believe a regular dig each year is essential. Some may prefer autumn digging, others later, some do deep digging and others just surface forking over. I've been a passionate no-digger for decades and can't see the point of annually digging every vegetable plot from one end to the other. Indeed it may surprise you to learn that all of my forty vegetable beds have never been dug as such over twenty years and that most were never even dug over initially!
An argument has been going on in kitchen gardens for over a hundred and fifty years. Ever since gardeners first started using chemicals there has been a fierce debate over which method produced better food; the organic or the chemical. During the last fifty years the chemical approach appeared triumphant seeming to have ousted the competition, it even managed to label organic gardeners as "cranks" practising "muck and magic".
Whether or not we as a species are responsible for any significant change to our climate for sure we as individuals can do little to correct it and but slowly. As gardeners however we can improve the micro-climate for our plants quite significantly. Here in the colder climates of Northern Europe micro-climate improvement is almost invariably striving to give our plants more shelter, warmth and light. In sunnier climes the converse is often more important and there many of our kitchen garden crops find the intense tropical sunlight too bright to endure.
For many years I have been a consultant to horticultural businesses. Theirs is a very lean and efficient industry on a scale few imagine and which has to work very hard to make money. I have also advised countless private customers, and rather a large proportion have queried how they could make money from their garden. Many times they have been speculating selling surpluses and herb plants by the gate imagining wildly that this might cover running costs or even make a profit. I have had to disillusion them, So can you make any money from your garden?