Before we start, let us look at the definition of what the dictionary says a garden is: ‘a piece of ground adjoining a house, in which grass, flowers, and shrubs may be grown’. How unfair is this when you consider that 1 in 8 British households has no garden (from Office for National Statistics). Added to this, as far as Scotland is concerned, over half of our rural land is owned by only 432 landowners and in England over half of the land is owned by less than 1% of the population. So indeed, how do you start a garden!
The key here is earth, the soil, the giver of life. We are all concerned about reducing our carbon foot print, and quite right too but this will not stop the issue we currently have, it will, at best, keep it where we are now – there is only one ingredients on this earth that can reduce carbon in the atmosphere and that is healthy soil, it traps and keeps carbon buried. Our biggest culprit is modern farming, ploughing the fields, spraying poisons, monoculture – treating this precious gift of life giving soil as if it is there as a resource we can continually take from, turning life into dirt.
I will always tell children and adults when taking them round our garden – who wants a friend that takes from you all the time? This is not friendship, but this is what modern farming is all about, taking. Is friendship not the joy of giving and receiving, to cherish one another, learn and listen – if you are to form a relationship then it must be built on these values and the relationship we have with the soil on this earth, must come from a true equal, loving partnership.
We have a 7.5 acre plot of land that we have cared for with many trees planted, perennial plants, mixed agriculture, annual crops, cover crops , chickens, geese and rotation of our pigs grazing, we produce our own compost on a very small scale with no chemicals whatsoever; my dream would be to take on the responsibility of a large piece of land that had been intensely farmed and try and bring the soil and area back to life – working to trap carbon and working with nature herself.
There is hope, there are farmers willing to move over to Regenerative Agriculture, Agroforestry, Permaculture, a no till drill and managing for healthy soil but, alas, not enough to start to reduce the carbon in the atmosphere yet - there must be a change in modern agriculture for all our futures.
So where does this bring us to the question ‘How to Start a Garden’?
If you are lucky enough to own a garden – feed the earth you have; make a compost to add to your soil, don’t use any chemicals whatsoever, have diversification of plants, try not to have bare earth, clothe her in cover crops, don’t be over tidy, allow wild unkept corners, plant wild indigenous plants, encourage wild life but most importantly of all encourage healthy soil – then you will start to have a garden!
If however, you don’t have your own garden – the world is your oyster! You could start by having house plants into your life, a window box, you may eventually be lucky enough and get an allotment. However, the potential garden is everywhere – go to parks, watch the grass verges – if there are poisons being sprayed by councils, complain, look to joining community gardens, volunteer in gardens , find somewhere you can place your hands deep into the soil and know that you are creating a breathing life force for all – learn more about our soil (there is a wonderful film called ‘Kiss the Ground’ on Netlix, I don’t usually ever recommend films etc but this one does explain the ethos we have had here at the Secret Garden for the last 10 years) and then your garden is the earth herself.
Have a voice and be heard.
Happy Gardening and let us make healthy, happy SOIL, for all our sakes – Love Hamish