Tuesday, June 19, 2018

The Collective Unconscious

This year I have joined several gardening groups on Facebook.  All day long I can look at photos of people's beautiful gardens and discuss the finer points of gardening.  On the other hand my Facebook feed is bombarded with an international array of pests and problems, to the point where I dream at night that I have tomato horn worms!

"Joe Gardener" has a Facebook page which attracts a lot of master gardeners 
with great set ups and a wealth of knowledge.
His was one of the gardens I used as inspiration as we planned our garden
I've also come to realize that there are a lot of people who jump feet first into gardening with absolutely no idea what they're doing.  They grab a used bucket or maybe an array of recycled containers, fill it with dirt and start putting in tomato plants.  Then they start asking about ideas to keep the rabbits, chipmunks, squirrels, deer and raccoons from destroying everything and for help identifying diseases.  Now that's not necessarily a problem, we all learn by doing but maybe buy a comprehensive garden reference book and flip through it once or twice?

The Big Book of Kitchen Gardens is a good start
Throughout the day I send instant messages to my co-worker with some of the really funny ones.  We both grew up out in the country and obviously take for granted a lot of farmer common sense that does not get distributed in the city.  For example, cow manure is good, don't water the garden EVERY day until it wilts from exhaustion and more importantly how to tell the difference between Indian strawberries and poison ivy!

Just so we're clear:  This is wild strawberry
and this is poison ivy
But besides seeing enough poor soil, blossom end rot and powdery mildew on a daily basis to give any gardener an extreme case of paranoia, I also pick up a lot of random useful information to stash away for future use.  Interesting facts like although tomato horn worms blend in with your tomato stems, they also glow under black light making them easy to hunt in the dark

Tomato Horn Worms under black light
Reading about everyone else's challenges day by day, and seeing all of the bad things that can happen, makes me very grateful for my well constructed, nearly pest free garden. I stop to reflect on what has made me successful as a gardener.  Certainly there is some inherited aptitude and collective gardening unconscious (in Jungian psychology the part of the unconscious mind that is derived from ancestral memory and experience and is common to all humankind, as distinct from the individual's unconscious)
There is upbringing since I learned to transplant seedlings about the same time I learned to write my name.  There is my tendency to be curious and read extensively about whatever subject interest me at the time.  There is the fact that I live out in the wide open rural countryside where pests have to travel a bit between gardens.  And I think a lot of it has to do with the structure and management of the garden itself.

Look at my garden and tell me what you don't see.  You don't see native grasses, "weeds", trees or shrubs up against the fence.  You don't see an untended field full of insects and critters.  You don't see other houses or gardens nearby.  What you do see is wide open gravel paths which discourage creepy crawlies and allow good airflow and sunlight to rule the garden, and you see a very sturdy fence.  I think a lot of critters walk by, glance in and think "parking lot".  That's one luxury of living on acreage in the country.  Lack of space is not a problem.

Of course the Facebook world is not solely populated by beginners.  There are a lot of accomplished gardeners there to help the newbies and to debate the minutia of gardening knowledge.  One such fellow posted on a couple of groups asking if he should mulch his vegetable garden and if so what material should he use?  After about an hour he announced that he had learned two different approaches to it.  "Absolutely NOT" and "Absolutely YES".

10 Proven Uses for Epsom Salt in the Garden
For every dozen people who swear that Epsom Salts are the key to green plants, there will be someone who can scientifically debunk the myth.  Companion planting - new age liberal hocus pocus.  Planting by the moon - archaic mumbo jumbo.  Compost tea - hogwash.  Pruning tomato suckers - why bother.  Eggshells, Coffee Grounds, Banana Peels - ineffectual

So what is the answer?  Just listen and learn and practice some good old fashioned trial and error.  And don't lose sleep over someone else's horn worms.

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