Recently I read in a novel that gardens were little more than hacking, weeding, and controlling nature. I just know that the author never experienced gardening! I believe that good gardening is really about managing and working with nature. Many writers discuss the hows and whys of gardening, its joys, its problems, and its economic impact. Today let's take a look at the environmental impact of gardens.

If you have the opportunity try to get a copy of Wildlife of A Garden: A Thirty Year Study by Jennifer Owen. Jennifer is a former gardener (presently ravaged by multiple sclerosis) living in Leicester England who kept incredible records of the life she found in her garden.Think about it. This record is by no means complete so there are even more species than those that were recorded. In thirty years Jennifer listed 410 plant species,23 species of butterflies, 915 other insect species including 282 moth species, 138 species of spiders, flatworms, earthworms, snails, slugs,and centipedes. In addition she noted three amphibian species, 54 bird species, and seven mammal species. Jennifer chronicled the wildlife changes in her garden and inadvertently kept data that also supports the concept of rapid global warming.

Wildlife of a Garden is an exquisitely beautiful book that gives both the details of her garden and her personal garden observations. I love this quote: "I didn't use pesticide or poison on any creature because I was interested in what shared the garden with me. I enjoyed it and I was not a vicious or overly tidy gardener, though my father who was very much of the old school, used to walk around with his eyes averted." I love this lady!

Now you may be saying "She had a lot of land, right?" (I get asked this question all the time when I do gardening talks.) Well the answer is "No!" both for Jennifer and for me. Her garden was 7800 square feet (only 0.18 acre)! Mine is about a third acre. How can there be so much variety in such small space?

The answer is that gardens are created by people and this brings plants, animals, and other creatures together that might never occur in nature. Why is this important? Is this a good thing? Gardens that have many plant species,that use integrated pest management techniques (meaning pesticide use when all else fails), are extraordinary! There can actually be more variety, more habitat for many different species of wildlife in a garden than in the same area of land in the wild! We love gardens and gardening but even if we never share our gardens with another human being we share them with an incredible array of other species! Gardens have an incredible impact on the earth! Aren't you proud that you can say "I'm a gardener."

Forever Young Magazine - August 2013