All around the world, people are starting to see simply ornamental gardens and lush green lawns as a wasteful thing of the past - and Ottawa is no exception. They require too much water, too much fertilizer, too much time, energy, and money. With the cost of oil rising, the depletion of our groundwater, increasing droughts and erratic weather, and conventional agriculture being one of the biggest sources of greenhouse gasses, deforestation, and desertification on the planet, people are turning to gardening as a solution.
And why not? Gardens of any size can help meet so many of our basic needs without sacrificing the beauty. Did you know you can eat daylilies? There are over 42 different edible flowers! And many vegetable plants are actually quite stunning when not in long, monoculture rows. Some ornamentals like phlox can make beautiful cut flowers while providing much-needed food for pollinators likes bees and butterflies whose populations are declining at alarming rates. Many native plants need little or no watering during the season, may also be edible and/or medicinal, are good for pollinators and the soil, and can make great companion plants. Well-designed gardens can help you attract birds and other wildlife, provide an educational and fun experience for your kids, help reconnect you with the Earth, and save you time, energy, and money over the season.
To get started you do not need to completely redesign your garden from scratch. In fact, it is better not to. Just try adding a few functional plants to your gardens at a time, and research the plants you currently have. Many of them probably have several impressive functions you are unaware of! And if you don’t already have a garden, you don’t have to be an experienced gardener to start. You can even garden on a patio, balcony, or windowsill. Simply start with some seeds and some soil, water, and light, and see what comes up. You’ll be amazed at what nature can teach you.