The Psychology Behind Gardening

I don’t know what it is about a garden that has always drawn humans to
them. But they’ve always been very popular, and an integral part of
peoples’ lifestyles. Most religions feature gardens as the settings for
some of the biggest events According to Christianity, humanity was started
in a garden and the son of God was resurrected in a garden. The Buddhist
build gardens to allow nature to permeate their surroundings. Almost every
major palace and government building has a garden. But what’s so great
about them? They’re just a bunch of plants, after all.

Of course, the reasoning is fairly obvious behind why people grow food in
gardens. It’s to eat! If you live off the fat of the land and actually
survive on stuff from your garden, it’s easy to understand the reasoning.
But I’m thinking about those people who plant flower gardens just for the
sake of looking nice. There’s no immediate benefit that I can see; you
just have a bunch of flowers in your yard! However, after thinking
extensively about the motivation behind planting decorative gardens, I’ve
conceived several possible theories.

I think one of the reasons people love gardens so much is that while we
have a natural desire to progress and industrialize, deep within all of us
is a primal love for nature. While this desire might not be as strong as
the desire for modernism, it is still strong enough to compel us to create
gardens, small outlets of nature, in the midst of all our hustle and
bustle. Since being in nature is like regressing to an earlier stage of
humanity, we too can regress to a time of comfort and utter happiness.
This is why gardens are so relaxing and calming to be in. This is why
gardens are a good place to meditate and do tai chi exercises. A garden is
a way to quickly escape from the busy world.

I’ve thought at times that perhaps we as humans feel a sort of guilt
driving us to restore nature and care for it. This guilt could stem from
the knowledge that we, not personally but as a race, have destroyed so
much of nature to get where we are today. It’s the least we can do to
build a small garden in remembrance of all the trees we kill every day.
It’s my theory that this is the underlying reason for most people to take
up gardening as a hobby.

Gardening is definitely a healthy habit though, don’t get me wrong. Any
hobby that provides physical exercise, helps the environment, and improves
your diet can’t be a negative thing. So no matter what the underlying
psychological cause for gardening is, I think that everyone should
continue to do so. In the USA especially, which is dealing with obesity
and pollution as its two major problems, I think gardening can only serve
to improve the state of the world.

Of course I’m no psychologist; I’m just a curious gardener. I often stay
up for hours wondering what makes me garden. What is it that makes me go
outside for a few hours every day with my gardening tools, and facilitate
the small-time growth of plants that would grow naturally on their own? I
may never know, but in this case ignorance truly is bliss.

The Horrors of Hail

One of the most hazardous things that can happen to your plants is
weather. Many a garden has been demolished overnight because of this
phenomenon. And seemingly, there is nothing we can do to prevent it. Of
course, if weather didn’t exist at all then we wouldn’t have those nice
sunny days that are beneficial to the growth of our plants. But then
again, we wouldn’t have the tragic hailstorms that tear down everything
we’ve worked for so many hours to grow.

When rain starts to fall, usually the first reaction in a gardener is pure
joy. After all, this means you don’t have to worry about going out and
watering it manually. The natural rain fall can’t be anything but good for
all your thirsty plants, can it? Well once that same gardener starts to
see the gorgeous rain drops turn into small globules of ice, usually a
complete emotional breakdown is in order. I know this from experience,
because when I was a blooming gardener I had my garden completely
demolished by about 10 minutes of severe hail.

When I first learned my lesson on the damage hail can do, I quickly
devised a method of coping. I began to keep large clay pots within 10 feet
of my garden, so that at any sign of hail I could run outside and have the
plants sheltered in a matter of seconds. This saved me from being forced
to watch my plants be ripped to pieces on multiple occasions. I’ve never
dealt with hail more than an inch in diameter, but I’m guessing that if
there had been any baseball sized chunks then those pots would have been
quickly demolished.

However, as the number of fragile plants in my garden grew, it became
slightly impractical to have a pot for each plant, and run outside to
place each one before significant damage had already occurred. After much
thought, I ended up building a horizontal, retractable screen mechanism
made out of a strong but flexible wire mesh. At any sign of rain I could
pull the screen out over my entire garden and have instant protection. Not
only did it let the rain through, but the collected hail provided a steady
drip of water for as much as a day afterwards. This project cost me
several hundred dollars, and more blood, sweat, and tears than can be
measured with earth dollars. Therefore I wouldn’t recommend it to everyone.

If it’s too late for you, and you’ve recently lost your precious plants to
those wicked balls of ice, then you’re probably looking for some way to
help the plants recover. Unfortunately there aren’t many choices for you.
The best thing you can do is give them the tender care they deserve, and
attempt to nurse them back to health over a long period of time. The
several weeks after being severely damaged by hail are vital to whether
the plant survives or not. If you expect more rain or wind, you should
keep the plant covered. In this brittle stage, even raindrops or a strong
breeze could cause more damage.

So if you live in an area that experiences frequent hail, you should
definitely have some emergency plan for protecting your plants. Sitting by
and watching them be ripped to shreds should never be an option!

Preparing Healthy Soil

If you’re getting ready to go on a new garden venture, you need to prepare
your soil to ideally house your plants. The best thing you can do in the
soil preparation process is to reach the perfect mixture of sand, silt,
and clay. Preferably there would be 40 percent sand, 40 percent silt, and
20 percent clay. There are several tests used by experienced gardeners to
tell whether the soil has a good composition. First you can compress it in
your hand. If it doesn’t hold its shape and crumbles without any outside
force, your sand ratio is probably a little high. If you poke the
compressed ball with your finger and it doesn’t fall apart easily, your
soil contains too much clay.

If you’re still not sure about the content of your soil, you can separate
each ingredient by using this simple method. Put a cup or two of dirt into
a jar of water. Shake the water up until the soil is suspended, then let
it set until you see it separate into 3 separate layers. The top layer is
clay, the next is silt, and on the bottom is sand. You should be able to
judge the presence of each component within your dirt, and act accordingly.

After you’ve analyzed the content of your soil, if you decide that it is
low on a certain ingredient then you should definitely do something to fix
it. If dealing with too much silt or sand, it’s best to add some peat moss
or compost. If you’ve got too much clay, add a mixture of peat moss and
sand. The peat moss, when moistens, helps for the new ingredient to
infiltrate the mixture better. If you can’t seem to manage to attain a
proper mixture, just head down to your local gardening store. You should
be able to find some kind of product to aid you.

The water content of the soil is another important thing to consider when
preparing for your garden. If your garden is at the bottom of an incline,
it is most likely going to absorb too much water and drown out the plants.
If this is the case, you should probably elevate your garden a few inches
(4 or 5) over the rest of the ground. This will allow for more drainage
and less saturation.

Adding nutrients to your soil is also a vital part of the process, as most
urban soils have little to no nutrients already in them naturally. One to
two weeks prior to planting, you should add a good amount of fertilizer to
your garden. Mix it in really well and let it sit for a while. Once you
have done this, your soil will be completely ready for whatever seeds you
may plant in it.

Once your seeds are planted, you still want to pay attention to the soil.
The first few weeks, the seeds are desperately using up all the nutrients
around them to sprout into a real plant. If they run out of food, how are
they supposed to grow? About a week after planting, you should add the
same amount of fertilizer that you added before. After this you should
continue to use fertilizer, but not as often. If you add a tiny bit every
couple of weeks, that should be plenty to keep your garden thriving.

Basically, the entire process of soil care can be compressed into just
several steps… ensure the makeup of the soil is satisfactory, make sure
you have proper drainage in your garden, add fertilizer before and after
planting, then add fertilizer regularly after that. Follow these simple
steps, and you’ll have a plethora of healthy plants in no time. And if you
need any more details on an individual step, just go to your local nursery
and enquire there. Most of the employees will be more than happy to give
you advice.

Preparing Your Garden fo the Winter

Some people believe that when the weather starts getting colder and the
leaves start to fall, it is time to put away the gardening tools and wait
until next spring to work on their garden again. Wrong. Winter is an
important time to maintain your garden’s health and assure yourself a good
crop for next year. You may think that might take to long to prepare your
garden, but the truth is that it takes less than one day to prepare your
garden for the upcoming winter.

When the nighttime temperatures drop to less than forty-five degrees
Fahrenheit for more than four days in a row, or frost is forecasted for
your area (usually around late October or November) you know its time to
begin preparing your garden. You should begin by evaluating your garden
design, check which plants grew well in the past season, and which plants
did not do well. Fall is a good time to decide which plants will remain in
you garden next year, and which ones should go.

It is also a good time to decide which new plants you want to grow. To
make your garden more colorful and healthy, be sure only to plant the more
hardy plants during the fall so that they can withstand the winter. Some
plants that will do fine being planted in fall are: rudbeckia, Aster
Novi-belgii, Anemone Japonica, panicle hyandea, endive, escarole, and
Brussels sprouts. You can find all of these and more in gardening
magazines or your local nursery.

After you have finished this you should begin cleaning up your garden.
Begin by pulling out weeds that may have cropped up, and raking fallen
leaves. Weeds and rotten leaves can carry insects and diseases that might
be harmful to your garden. You should also rid your garden of spent annual
plants, and harvest your vegetables and other plants that cannot withstand
the winter weather. After fall has come and gone, the leaves will be off
your trees and you can see the rotten branches. Trimming off the unwanted
branches from your trees isn’t necessary to your gardens health, but may
help later on by not dropping branches on your plants and not blocking too
much of the sun.

If you have younger trees you should consider wrapping them and supporting
them with stakes to help them survive the winter wind and cold. Putting
mulch over your garden for the winter can be a helpful way to protect
plants from sudden temperature changes and heavy snow. For mulch you can
use about five inches of shredded bark, pine needles, or a variety of
other materials. You have to be careful not to mulch too early, because
some insects may still be alive and able to take shelter in it for the
winter.

Once you are finished with your gardening tools you should clean them and
make sure they are in a safe place where they won’t rust and you know
where they’ll be for next year. Before winter comes you should always set
out slug repellent, as slugs are one of the worst bugs to have in your
garden. If you have a pool or fountain in your garden, be sure to take out
any fish that you have in them and bring them inside. There’s nothing
sadder than a fish frozen in a block of ice.