Does My Garden Need a Mission Statement?

By , January 21, 2010

“The best gardener is the one who does the most gardening by the winter fire.”

Last winter I ran across a blog site called Cold Climate Gardening by Kathy Purdy. She had an article that popped up when I Googled “Minimum/Maximum Thermometers,” a necessity for my greenhouse. There are many topics on her site that sparked my interest.

One is: “Write Your Garden’s Mission Statement.” (She got the idea from Helen Yoest at Gardening With Confidence.) At first I thought this was a bit pretentious, but then I saw how it could simplify the way you think and plan your garden.

With a mission statement, you know specifically what to think about, rather than being distracted by the many things you aren’t going to do in your garden. For instance, I know I am not going to have a bed full of flowers, unless they are edible. I haven’t formed my mission statement, but that will be part of it. We don’t have space or time for cultivating non-edibles. On the other hand, the gardener needs to enjoy being in the garden and an eye-catching splash of color is a really good idea.

I don’t want to be distracted by plants that don’t grow well in our hardiness zone (Zone 6.) There is no sense in spending time on plants that won’t mature here. It sure would be handy if the seed companies could let us search their Web sites by zones to find only those plants that can grow in our area.

It is a given that I would include gardening organically in my mission statement. Most organic amendments are free for the gathering around here. Many are found on our property like seaweed, herring, and squirrel middens (I use midden litter in the potato beds to acidify the soil and combat scab). We get barley mash from the brewery in town and used coffee grounds from the local shop. Even though they are heavy to haul over the trail, they are free and organic compost enhancers.

I need to incorporate something about gardening simply. I garden with basic hand tools and basic methods that have been around for a long time . . . the way people gardened before “time and energy saving tools” that run on fossil fuels. My model is the old “kitchen gardens” that were close at hand, compact and yet provided what cooks needed to feed the family.

Kathy had this quote I loved:
“A garden is half-made when it is well planned. The best gardener is the one who does the most gardening by the winter fire.”
—Liberty Hyde Bailey

So, I am working on a mission statement . . . and yes, I am sitting by the winter fire with a hot drink, my graph paper garden layout, my library of gardening books, and the Internet.

Now my mission statement says: “My simple garden is organic, edible plants that are hardy to zone 6. It nourishes our souls as well as our bodies by being well planned and lovely to look at.”

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