How ‘Tending the Wild’ Creates Both Beauty and Bounty

Celebrating the Spirit of Inclusion in the Garden

Recently I was away from our garden for almost two weeks while visiting new and “old” grandchildren on the East Coast.   Of course, this is prime growing season for all gardens in the Northern Hemisphere, and Napa is no exception.  It was astonishing to see the amount of growth that had occurred during these two weeks.  But what really struck us was how quickly the garden would become reintegrated back into “nature” if it weren’t for the human work that goes into tending the garden.  My guess is that if all the humans involved in our garden left for one year, all that would be left would be an overgrown mass of vegetation.  Certainly, all the food that we harvest from the garden, which right now means tomatoes, tomatillos, greens, cucumbers, zucchini, strawberries and much more, would be gone.  All that would be left would be “weeds.”

For some, this result would be evidence that humans have no business imposing their “order” on nature’s plan.  For others, this situation speaks to the fundamental role that humans play in transforming patches of earth into gardens.   One of my early gardening mentors, a fellow named Trauger Groh, who started the first CSA in the U.S., insisted that beauty in nature is only really found through the interaction of humans with nature.  That’s not to say that truly wild places can’t be beautiful; but, for me, there is something truly moving and even inspiring about a properly kept garden.

As we go about our tasks of weeding, planting, placing plants in certain areas and not others, planting certain plants and not others, we are no doubt altering nature’s designs to fit our own needs and aesthetics.  Personally, I’m guessing that the good angels and beings that live in every garden rejoice in these efforts.  They welcome this spirit of inclusion that welcomes the weeds, insects and even the gophers that have decimated this year’s tomatoes and flowers.  Our job, our choice, is to invite this spirit of inclusion into our garden and to welcome the owls and gopher snakes that will inevitably show up to help us with our gopher “problem.” 

As the saying goes, nature always bats last.  Farms and gardens, like the ones we work with at Dr. Cowan’s Garden, the ones who through the use of biodynamics use a gentle hand in working with nature, the ones who support this spirit of plant and animal diversity in their gardens, are the ones that produce the best food and the most appealing aesthetics.  These gardens and farms are the future of humankind.  


In health,

Tom Cowan, M.D.

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