The Ups and Downs of Garden Fads
Gardens have seen their share of trends and fads over the years. Here’s a fun look at the good, the bad, and the plain ugly.
Gardening has been around a long time, and gardens have seen no shortage of fads and fashions come and go over the years. From different crops to pest control methods, designs and layouts to the proverbial pink flamingo and garden gnomes, garden techniques, style, and care have gone through many notable transformations.
Outdoors, growing practices like crop rotation and companion planting have respectively led to better soil health and solutions for natural pest control. Indoors, vertical farming and internet-connected plant monitoring systems such as the Internet of Things platforms and Machine to Machine technology have increased efficiency and productivity while decreasing environmental impact.
Here’s a look at some fads that had their moment in the sun before fading into the shade of history and some of the latest agricultural trends that seem destined to influence the way we garden today and tomorrow.
Trends of Yesteryear
Originating in England, the cottage garden is one gardening fad that has lost much of its popularity in recent years. Lovely in their naturally rugged way, cottage gardens are a hodgepodge of grasses and plants amidst a mishmash of multi-colored perennials and herbs. They’re generally set close around the house with an informal and seemingly casual design.
With such a large variety packed into a small space, cottage gardens sometimes crowd out natural vegetation and require a lot of water. Naturally, there are some who still plant this style of garden (it’s lovely surrounding a quaint stone cottage in England), but for many, it’s a fad whose time has come and gone (plus cottage gardens can appear somewhat out of place in a yard sporting an aluminum-sided house).
Another once-popular style of garden was the victory garden. Also known as war gardens, they were planted in the US, Canada, Australia, the UK, and other countries during the First and Second World Wars. Born out of necessity, victory gardens contained an amalgamation of fruit, vegetables, and herbs that helped reduce the strain on the public food supply during the lean war years.
Other gardens that have gone out of style include shade gardens and water gardens.
In Thomas Jefferson’s day, it was common practice to spread manure over the entire garden surface in preparation for the coming planting season. This trend was “poopular” well into the 20th century. Though it is still in use by some gardeners today, this trend faded for the most part with the advent of bagged fertilizers containing all the plant-specific nutrients needed to grow a healthy garden. Less mess with better results and no effluvium meant the spreading of manure over the garden floor became unnecessary.
Raised garden beds are a popular trend these days. They afford gardeners a bevy of perquisites. There is less bending, better pest control management, and, if the bed is built right, potentially less weeding. Additionally, there is no trampling down of the garden soil while tending your plants, so you’ll also realize more efficient drainage.
Read also: Spring Raised Bed Vegetable Gardening
Another trend Maximum Yield readers will know well is hydroponics. The word “hydroponics” is a synthesis of the Greek words hydro (water) and ponos (work). Literally, let the water do the work. In a hydroponic garden, a plant’s roots are submerged in a nutrient-infused water solution or a soilless medium such as stone wool, coco fiber, or perlite.
Even though growing plants without soil has its roots in previous centuries, it didn’t really catch on until late in the 20th century with the development of hydroponic and aquaponic systems for the home gardener. Up until then, the idea that one could grow edible plants and vegetables without dirt sounded a little crazy. However, the advantages of indoor hydroponic gardening are self-evident: increased yields without the digging, inclement weather, and dirt.
Finally, as more people with less space look for a way to continue gardening, vertical farming has come onto the scene. As with a hydro system, plants in a vertical farm are grown indoors in a controlled environment employing artificial lighting and no soil. Often, the entire operation is monitored electronically while adjustments to temperature, nutrient intake, and watering are all made instantly through a bank of electronic sensors. Of course, you can also grow vertically without all the electronic minutia.
Natural Pest Control
In an ever more health-conscious world, the use of chemical pesticides in the home garden is one trend that’s on its way out. We need only look at the once ubiquitous insecticide DDT to know why this a good thing. Banned from agricultural use a few decades ago, the disturbing side effects of DDT are felt to this day in the form of human health scares and dangerous ground contamination. There is no downside to avoiding chemicals in the garden. The less chemicals used, the safer and healthier you and your garden will be.
Today, the upcoming trend is natural pest control using good insects to fight bad insects. For example, Ichneumonidae is a family of parasitic wasps that lay their eggs on or inside a host insect or the hosts’ eggs. They prey on several insects including caterpillars, beetles, and flies, and their larva make short work of the bad bugs.
Other beneficial bugs include lacewings, ladybugs, hoverflies, tachinid flies, minute pirate bugs, and damsel bugs. Growing certain plants helps attract these good bugs and repel a few harmful ones. A few examples include parsley, mint, some types of marigolds, lemon balm, dill, caraway, coriander, masterwort, Queen Anne’s lace, crimson thyme, Peter Pan goldenrod, lavender globe lily, and fennel.
Crop rotation is also coming back in vogue. For years, it was common for gardeners to plant the same crop in the same plot year after year. However, this eventually depletes the soil of all its nutrients. With crop rotation, however, different crops are planted in a plot each year. The advantages of this old trend made new again include the promotion of healthy soil, better annual yields, and reduced erosion.
Garden fads and trends continually come and go, and there isn’t enough time to try them all. So, find a few proven methods that benefit your garden and fit your lifestyle and you’ll always be trending in the right direction.