West Coast Gardener – The Super Power of Observation

by Laurel Rassenti, Russell Nursery – 

Gardeners have much to do. We are forever making lists of tasks to accomplish. No sooner is one task completed than another is added to the list. This plant needs moving. That plant needs pruning. What was I thinking when I planted (insert name here)? It’s time to mulch again. I need more fertilizer. Winter vegetables need seeding and the compost needs turning. The list goes on (and on and on!).

But accomplishing the “To Do” list is not why I garden. Why would it be when sometimes merely reading my list makes me exhausted, frustrated and/or overwhelmed before my spade even touches the soil! I garden because there is so much to see and learn. Also, surveying the scene once in a while helps supress the sense of panic that arises from thinking about that formidable list.

In order to observe, I like to create quiet “sit spots” in and around the garden, each right up close to the plants. I’m not so much looking for an overall garden view as an intimate look at what is happening in a chosen small area. I move my chair around and select a different position each time to benefit from each new perspective. A lightweight lawn or camping chair is easily transportable and works well for this purpose. A hot cup of coffee or a chilled glass of wine add to the experience and are to be encouraged!

What have I observed and learned while occupying some of my sit-spots?

Once, when perching by my Westerland rose, I saw aphids clinging to the buds. Immediately my mind went to “add spraying with insecticidal soap to the task list;” however, after taking a deep breath and a sip of wine, I looked more closely. There were ladybug larva and other aphid predators moving in. I was happy to learn that spraying would be wasted time and effort as so many hungry beneficial insects were on the job for me.

Another day, in my veggie patch, I suspected that birds were eating my lettuce, but it wasn’t until I sat and observed that I learned exactly who the culprit was (the finches, those rascals!). It’s easy for me to plant some extra seeds to ensure my family has salad greens and the finches get their share as well.

I love watching the bees, butterflies, hoverflies and hummingbirds and often aim to put a sit-spot near where they cluster. I was delighted the other evening to see them returning repeatedly to the bolted patch of coriander and nearby overgrown borage. Those unkempt herbs were on my task list to pull out, but no longer! I decided there and then to leave them be until the flowers finished feeding a host of my favourite garden visitors.

Have I convinced you to put your task list aside and just look at your garden once in a while? In my garden, casting the task list aside occasionally in order to enjoy a few moments of stillness and close observation allowed me to appreciate my garden more and to learn some things that shortened my “To Do” list. Isn’t any activity that reduces a “To Do” list a Super Power? You bet it is, and I hope you use yours today to good effect!

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