Gardening as a National Pasttime: The Kids Are All Right

What does this Oriental poppy have to do with this week’s debate over the life and death of gardening as our nation’s favorite hobby?

Nothing. But it’s pretty, and it’s blooming in my garden right now.

Great comments from everybody on this issue. Two things worth discussing in more detail:

1. Do we need to undertake some kind of national campaign to get kids more interested in gardening? (This is where we haul out all the standard advice about planting a little garden in the schoolyard and making it part of their life science lessons, and also about planting radish seeds because at least they’ll sprout quickly and keep the children interested, and don’t forget about the trellis covered in bean vines that the little darlings can hide inside.)

To all that, I say: No. Forget it. Who cares? If a kid wants to play in the garden or plant a flower or dig a hole, she will. Gardening is, as many people pointed out in the comments, a sport for the settled and the patient. You need a little land of your own, and you also need to be able to think more than five minutes into the future. I didn’t have either of those things until I was about 25. Some people don’t get there until they’re 35. So what?

2. If fewer people are gardening, is their housing situation to blame? The thinking goes that these non-gardeners either don’t have a place with a yard, or if they do, it has been planted with that abomination known as a contractor’s garden. Pile on the fill dirt, toss some Osmocote in a hole, plant a spindly little flowering cherry tree in the ground, stake it to within an inch of its life, and lay some sod around it. Then the homeowners association comes along and regulates it. Want to condemn some pansies to death by planting them in the terrible soil around that sapling? Not if it doesn’t match the neighborhood color scheme, buddy.

I agree that brand new, plastic, planned communities with gardens planted by contractors and homeowners associations to regulate your every dig are horrible. I wish I could just say, “Well, a real gardener wouldn’t live in one of those places. He would simply find someplace else to live, someplace more conducive to gardening.” But we all know how impossible that can be, especially with the price of housing in hot markets like California.

So what do I think should be done? Well, nothing. I don’t think that gardening is on the decline, and I’m not sure that fixing the problem would be top on my list of national priorities anyway. I would, however, like to propose a Horticultural Freedom Act that would prohibit any restrictions on what people can grow in their own gardens. Homeowners associations, go back to fighting over where people can park their cars or when they can fly a flag in front of their house. Leave us gardeners alone. Harumph. Posted by Picasa