Leaving the Clutter in Desert Gardens

Gardening is a skill that develops over a lifetime.   I envy those who were raised with a successful gardener, because like any art, you just can’t pick it up from a book.  In fact, books on gardening are really just the results of gardeners sorting out their own thoughts out on paper.  Well, nowadays we don’t even use paper.  But that is another story.
Now, the danger with gardening books is that they imply there are orderly rules to be followed, and that these rules are universal.  In reality, the only rule that works in gardening is to observe and be open to what your environment is teaching you.
I’ll use this spring aparagus spear as an example.  See the cluttered mess of last year’s debris around it?  The textbook gardener would criticize a grower for such laziness.  In fact, if the book was sponsored by a garden supply center, the text would recommend a tool or a chemical treatment to get rid of that debris. They would gladly offer to sell you that tool.
But my asparagus bed lies on lot at the edge of town, with open space on all sides.  We fence it to exclude rabbits, but rabbits dig under the fence, and birds fly in from above to pick anything that dares to show green in March.  I’ve learned that the plants with the best chance of survival are those that are hidden.   The debris helps keep pests at bay by hiding my asparagus shoots.   It also holds moisture in the soil, captures morning dew, offers shade to the new plant, and serves as a reservoir of beneficial microbes that help the plant to grow.  So each year, my gardening becomes lazier.   I leave more debris, and I harvest more asparagus, with less effort.  My garden center does not even recognize me as a gardener.  I don’t spend enough money there.

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