Did you know there is no such thing as a "green thumb"?

A couple of days ago, while hunting for information about something else I stumbled upon an online article that has had me thinking ever since. The particular quote that I continue to contemplate says:
"Think about it, nobody digs and sows, plants and weeds, or sprays bugs in a forest. Still, all those chores are taken care of somehow. The forest grows and feeds its inhabitants, doesn't it? 
"If any task in your garden is an unpleasant chore then there is definitely a better way to do it or to eliminate it. Learn from nature. Nature has already developed a solution to every problem that you could possibly encounter in your garden." (from What is permaculture?)
The sentence I underlined hit a chord with me and has resonated long after I finished reading.

This resonation has caused me to reflect on one of the first unpleasant chores I eliminated when we moved here over 12 years ago--keeping a lawn. Although mowing the lawn was never a distasteful chore that I did growing up (I learned to enjoy it), the thought of pampering the lawn and coaxing it to be lush and green during our hot, dry summers was not a pleasant prospect.

An interesting chain of events followed that pivotal decision to eliminate any thought of a lawn. And the events came from seemingly unrelated sources:

I took things slowly as far as the design of the garden was concerned. I needed to get to know the seasons in my new climate. I needed to familiarize myself with how the light hit different parts of our lot and how water drained (or didn't). One can only do that by taking things slowly as the seasons roll in and out for at least a year or two. I somehow knew that.

I discovered that one of the most important garden chores I would engage in was sitting parked in a patio chair for long stints of time and simply observing. No earbuds with music from an iPod... no book to read... no one there to chat with... just me sitting alone with the garden. And the garden "told" me an awful lot about itself that I never would have "heard" otherwise.

What ended up happening was that I stumbled upon the very truth that I just read a couple of days ago. I had no idea I had lit upon a key aspect of permaculture. In fact, I'd never read about permaculture until I read the article I quote above.

But somehow my own garden taught me something that nature is always willing to teach anyone who will listen. "If any task in your garden is an unpleasant chore then there is definitely a better way to do it or to eliminate it."

I now enjoy a somewhat symbiotic relationship with my garden. It provides me with so much--particularly serenity. And it doesn't demand much of me in return because I've allowed nature to create a balance. I feel that I was guided through the process of discovering this truth by a much wiser power than my own intellect, so that I could enjoy what the article finally says:
"If you think ahead and design your permaculture garden right, it won't take much effort, it will mostly look after itself, and it will also be incredibly productive and beautiful and attractive to wildlife."
I wish I could somehow infuse that vision into others that they could see what lies ahead if they step back and let nature do it's thing. Oh how I wish I could. And that the result doesn't have to look like a tumble-down mess. It can have wonderful structure and still have nature taking care of most of the chores. Your garden can be inspired and designed after ones in Tuscany or cottage gardens in England or the great plains of the North American continent. The possibilities for inspiration are endless.

In the past 12 years, I've learned one more very important truth... there is no such thing as a "green thumb". Those individuals who appear to have a "green thumb" are actually seeking out and absorbing gardening information through every source possible and particularly through observation. That's the only difference between a "green thumb" and a "brown thumb".
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  1. A beautiful post Cindy, so full of potential and new ideas, that many of us have not heard before.

    I am balancing on a thought, a wish, a hope that somehow we can make this work for us. We do have very large area in the front yard that is almost a garden like you described...it's wild, and the birds love it, and so do we.

    I just need some time, and some research to make this thought a reality.

    Jen @ Muddy Boot Dreams

  2. So well said! I often sit and stare and observe and 'feel' the garden. It brings me such peace.

  3. Such a beautiful post, and lovely thoughts for me to muse...I'm in the process of reading "Under the Tuscan Sun" now, and I'm loving it too. I've been visualizing all that they talk about with the gardens, the food, the sun...all sounds so lovely. I'd love to learn more about this type of gardening as well. We have more projects than we can keep up with, and simpler is always attractive to me! Beautiful pics too!!

  4. I would love to see photos of what you've done. I don't "get" the whole lawn phenomenon. I'd much rather have something like what you've described. We have quite a bit of mown grass (it would be a stretch to call it 'lawn') at our new home, but I'm told it helps to keep the mice from the house. I'm thinking there must be another, equally effective, way to go.


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