Why Gardeners Need to Be Outward-Looking

Gardening is solitary work, but it's beneficial to think beyond one's own borders.

female gardener

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Gardening at home is often a solitary pursuit. A garden can provide a restful place to escape from the stresses and strains of the outside world. A successful garden can be a closed-loop system, which requires no external inputs and produces no waste. Gardening is also a key way to take back control—and to withdraw our support for damaging systems.

But it is important as you garden not to become too isolated or inward-looking. Today I thought I would share some of the reasons why gardeners need to be more outward-looking and should think beyond their own borders to include the wider landscape, the wider community, and the wider world.

An Outward-Looking Mindset Is Important in Garden Design

The first thing to consider is that every garden, no matter how large or small, is not an island. It is part of the wider ecosystem and the wider terrain. When planning and tending our gardens, we need to think about climate, such as sun, wind, and water. We need to start from larger patterns before progressing to the details.

Making sure that a garden has a "conversation" with the surrounding landscape and vegetation is important in making it a wildlife-friendly space. Your garden might extend a wildlife corridor, where making access routes through boundaries to neighboring gardens is crucial.

Thinking about what lies beyond garden borders is important in other ways, too. For example, the design might be influenced by the need to mitigate noise and pollution from a busy road nearby. Improving privacy requires looking at line-of-sight from surrounding access routes and buildings.

In terms of design and aesthetics, looking beyond your garden can also help in creating the most visually appealing space. In the concept of "borrowed landscape", we draw in, react to, and make use of what can be seen outside the space. 

Resilience Requires a Broader, Big-Picture View

Remaining overly inward in a garden can hamper efforts to boost resilience. In order to become more self-reliant, we should all look close to home for many of the things that we need. But it is also important to take a broader, big-picture view. Without understanding the wider context of our neighborhoods, our communities, and our bioregions, we cannot hope to find a truly safe and stable place within them.

We need to see our gardens not just as standalone spaces, but as part of an entire ecosystem, joining with neighboring gardens and other spaces to build broader resilience which, ultimately, benefits us all. Understanding the position and role of a garden in the bigger picture can help gardeners deepen their knowledge of ecology and the natural world, which is key for a more sustainable and enlightened future. 

Cooperation Is Key to Sustainable Gardening

As well as seeing our gardens within the context of the broader natural environment, it can also be helpful to see our gardens, and ourselves as gardeners, as part of a wider societal network. There is a lot that we can achieve as individuals. But by working together with other gardeners, and others in our communities, we can go above and beyond and achieve so much more. 

By partnering with other gardeners, sharing knowledge and skills, swapping seeds, plants, and produce, we can move beyond individual resilience and boost the resilience of our communities. Through cooperation we can reduce our reliance on harmful external systems and manage our own gardens in more sustainable ways. For example, by sharing seeds and cuttings and plants, we reduce consumption, thus buying fewer plants in plastic pots and breaking horticultural reliance on peat.

Gardeners Need to See Global Problems to Help Solve Them

Finally, looking outward, gardeners can better understand global problems and also see more clearly how what they do in their gardens can have profound and far-reaching effects. As we often say in sustainable circles, all of the world's problems can be solved in a garden.

Understanding global issues like climate change, biodiversity loss, etc. means that gardeners can gain a deeper knowledge of their impact as individuals, both negative and positive. They learn how to mitigate and adapt, and how to employ practices which make them part of the solution, rather than part of the problem.

Gardening is often a solitary pursuit, but it is certainly not a selfish one. We can all make sure that, as gardeners, and more broadly as humans, we look beyond our own bubbles and understand more clearly our positions as part of the whole.

View Article Sources
  1. Goddard, Mark A et al. “Scaling Up From Gardens: Biodiversity Conservation in Urban Environments.” Trends in Ecology & Evolution, vol. 25, no. 2, 2010, pp. 90-8., doi:10.1016/j.tree.2009.07.016