Gardening Insights From Edwards Greenhouse

Gardening For Future Generations

Humans’ dance with the earth through cultivation began in ways that helped populations learn to survive and pass on their knowledge to future generations. Nowadays, cultivating knowledge looks different, and our own future generations may benefit from methods born from new insight.

This site: talks about the domestication of plants by early humans. Horticulture, tending small plots of land with a variety of food crops, was successful for many tribes. One method, “slash-and-burn,” was sometimes used. This was clearing a wild plot of land of its trees and bushes, burning the remains, and using the ashes for gardening several years until the soil nutrients were depleted. The nomads would then move on. Gardening of one crop using larger plots of land, aka agriculture, developed. Nomads seeded some crops, moved to different lands for a time, and then returned to the crops. Sometimes other groups harvested while they were gone, the gardens were trampled, and/or insects ravaged the crops. Over the generations, a sense of ownership developed to maintain better care of the gardens, and humans, (once nomadic,) became sedentary. Such was the use of the earth by these early gardeners. The earth was used to service them during a time when populations were just beginning to grow.

This site: talks about contemporary endeavors to garden. “Humans are now using natural biophysical resources faster than they can be replenished by nature…Organic gardening and the use of native plants are integral to sustainable gardening.” The main idea of sustainable gardening is to work closely with natural processes so that the gardens produce what is needed without excessive maintenance by people. The movement is a reaction to resource-intensive agriculture that is not as concerned with the health of the earth for future generations. This site: says, “Sustainable gardens benefit both the environment and the people they serve. As Pati Vitt, a conservation scientist at the Chicago Botanic Garden, says, "The goal of sustainable gardening is to create a self-reliant growth system — a garden that can last indefinitely without inordinate external support. Sustainable gardens are not a new idea," continues Dr. Vitt. "Many of the victory gardens of World Wars I and II were sustainable. These gardens, which helped to feed the troops so that money could be spent to support the war effort, produced nearly 40 percent of the vegetables that were consumed nationally....If we grew just 20 percent of our own food, imagine how dramatically we could reduce our carbon "foodprint" — the fossil fuels expended in transporting produce, the materials used in packaging, distribution, and more." This site has helpful suggestions on starting the process of gardening more sustainably, such as composting, losing the lawn in favor of veggies, installing rain barrels, a cistern system, or an in-home gray-water system that redirects wash water to your landscape, planting native species, using raised beds which are more productive and are space efficient, and establishing perennial food plants. In this way, by not just using the earth’s resources without giving back, gardening takes a broader view of helping a burgeoning planet support life in the future. What a gift for future generations!

Edward’s staff members are happy to provide support and advice throughout the gardening experience to strengthen each gardener’s skills at all experience levels.


Gretchen Weitemier

Occupational Therapist

Herbs and Veggies Worker