Gardening technology has come a long way in the last few decades. In terms of efficiency and production, it is possible to get closer to traditional plant perfection than ever before.
New methods to maximize output and minimize inputs in farming make use of cutting-edge technologies such as self-driving machinery and machine learning.
With the newer versions of computer controlled robotic assistance in a controlled sealed room environment, it is possible to dial in moisture levels, nutrient solutions, and additives with precision unheard of for most of history.
Artificial lighting can simulate sunlight or brighter as desired. With each level of control, it becomes possible to get closer to growing the biggest, best, and perfect plants.
All of that is good and well, but it may not actually be as perfect as a perfectly imperfect garden in the backyard or spare room. In commercial agriculture, the bottom line depends on harvest size, and little else is of concern. Personal gardens, on the other hand, should be more about improving quality of life.
Magical Measures of Success
Having fresh homegrown vegetables that have been treated with care can be a healthy alternative to store-bought vegetables of unknown origin and history. When growing your own plants, you know what conditions they have been grown in and what they have and haven’t been treated with.
This is true of plants that produce a fair amount with average-sized fruits and those that produce a bounty of huge ones. The first bite of harvest is a treasure, no matter if the harvest is large or small.
In either case, there is something magical about eating vegetables that a gardener has grown themselves; a special something that makes them better.
The traditional measures of success for a garden rarely takes this touch of practical magic into account, in part because it doesn’t fit on a scale very well. It is hard to quantify exactly how much more value a fruit that one has nurtured and watched grow has over one simply paid for.
Many gardeners like their own produce best and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, even if they were the only one to think so. Sometimes being happy is worth more than winning contests.
Nor does the traditional concept of the “perfect garden” address the person it should benefit the most: the gardener. The perfect imperfect garden should provide exercise but not too much, as that gets too close to work and creates excuses why not to do it.
It should occupy just the right amount of time to tend and care for it, but not so much that it becomes a burden. Relaxing for a few minutes every day to smell the roses is said to have health benefits in part by allowing one to be calm.
Not only does over-worrying about minutia and being perfect disturb this calm, but it can rob the gardener of valuable time better spent enjoying the plants and having a nice life.
More Not Always Better
In a commercial setting, the ratio of plant to gardener is kept high, sometimes hundreds or even thousands of plants per worker. Less efficient is the lone home gardener with a dozen or few dozen plants, but each plant can be given more care each visit. Freed from having to compete with huge numbers for attention, home garden plants can receive a level of care that wouldn’t be cost-effective in agriculture.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as anyone that has over-planted squash in their garden can attest to. Enough to meet your family’s need is great, enough to give some to the neighbors can be even better, but having a small mountain of squash can be less fun.
More is not always better; sometimes just enough is best. This is a concept that isn’t new. “In all things, moderation” is a well-known Greek theme, and it’s one that could use some dusting off. The same applies to fertilizing and watering, as applying too much can be worse than not applying enough.
This is not meant to condone sloppy or careless gardening practices, but rather to encourage those that may not have perfect gardens that the gardens they do have may be more perfect than they first appear.
Even if they don’t win the blue ribbon at the local fair, if they improve the quality of the life of the gardener and those they feed, then they accomplish the most important part of having a home garden.
What it says on the scale may indicate bragging rights, but that may have little to do with how much good it does. A small backyard garden may wind up costing a little more than it should and not produce as much as it could, and still be the perfect garden for someone’s life.