Well, maybe not. It is true garden beds look tired when they're untouched and they look organized and tidy when they've been raked. But when we clean them up what are we actually doing to those beloved beds?
|My unraked garden bed looking admittedly a little bleak|
|But early species crocuses brighten it up a little|
It is interesting to note that when we take a walk in the woods we don't look at the humusy forest floor and think, "Yuck, I need to organize some volunteers to properly rake this woods". A helpful reminder that so many of our prejudices and aesthetic biases are all about context.
|Second growth woods with its carpet of fallen leaves|
|This fallen tree will eventually return entirely to the earth|
|Here the stump of a felled tree - almost unrecognizable as anything but rich humus earth|
|There is enough soil on this exposed rock to sustain clumping grasses which will prevent water and wind erosion|
|A smattering of beech saplings taking advantage of the extra sunlight provided by the opening up of the trail|
|A bramble growing in a sunnier spot at the edge of the woods|
|A self seeded conifer|
|Even this old split cedar fence will add to organic richness as it breaks down|
|Some leaves have pulled away at the base of this sugar maple revealing a beautiful dark soil|
It is worth remembering that the Great Dust Bowl of the 1930's happened in an organic, that is a pre-petroleum-based pesticide, herbicide and fertilizer era. But it certainly wasn't a time of sustainable agriculture. And the biggest genocide perpetrated on the soil was stripping it of its cover. Denuded of perennial grasses there was nothing to hold the topsoil in place. Grasslands, like forests, are an example of a balanced and sustainable ecosystem. And what grasslands and forests have in common is there is never a single square inch of exposed soil.
One year I had a neighbour who I didn't know very well volunteer to visit me at the farmhouse and do some work in the garden. I was thrilled because there is always much more to do than I can handle. I was aghast when she proudly pointed out to me that she had taken the initiative to carefully remove every bit of debris from under the rhubarb plant. Little did she know that I deliberately tuck all the leaves I cut off the harvested stalks around the base of the plant. Rhubarb is a perennial and a heavy feeder. Because of both characteristics it needs lost of organic material to keep it strong and long-lived. It is also very sensitive to drought and will send up flower shoots and stop producing new stalks very quickly if, without a protective mulch, it is allowed to dry out. I'll never know if my volunteer interpreted the expression on my face as shock or awe.
So let's raise a glass to indigence - at least in regards to raking our gardens. Like people, they really look much more attractive fully-clothed than naked.