All of you guys out there in the real world of gardens have serious power in your hands every minute of every day. In a few spade strokes or a click on your key board you can literally save a trillion lives, or give trillions of organisms the opportunity to exist. That is the reality of healthy soil.

Unfortunately, not many customers or bosses are going to consider a trillion critters most of whom they cannot even see. However, there are strategies which will make a difference regardless of whether you are mowing a lawn or doing a grand design.

The easy strategies for saving trillions of lives and increasing biodiversity are in the incremental bits the bosses and customers do not even notice. Some examples;

  • Win an extra square meter or two for healthy soil from existing hard surface. Trillions and trillions of microorganisms will thank you. If you shift a space from compacted impervious gravel to healthy soil you will probably have up to 75% of the effect of reducing hard surfaces. The total cover of hard surfaces in urban areas is increasing and as practitioners who care about our future we have a responsibility to push that trend back.
  • Plant at least a few indigenous plants and increase the varieties of non-invasive natives and exotic plants in your gardens. In vogue with some customer groups is minimalist design and built gardens. If you incorporate an additional 5 plants you may increase the plant diversity by 5 to 50 percent. That is a significant increase in continuity and variety of food supply for the birds and plant-dependent insects in your garden and surrounds.
  • If you work in a retail environment, nursery or hardware, increase the range of plants on offer including some locally native plants. Learn how to use them so gardeners gain confidence and spread the word. A 10% increase in the diversity of plants in your local gardens could collectively make a mega difference to our suburbs over a decade or two.
  • Educate your customers and bosses on the environmental and health benefits of using minimal impact sprays and fertilizers. Learn a little about integrated pest management. Check SGA’s product guide for impacts on the environment when it comes out next year.
  • If your customers or bosses show signs that their connection to nature is weak, endeavour to rekindle it, not through preaching, but by demonstrating on the ground what nature means to you.
  • Some time ago I was talking to local gardening professional, Karen Sutherland, and asked her how she managed to garden sustainably with customers who were not on that page. Her answer was, “I give them options, but I do not tell them what the unsustainable options are.”

Add all those little bits up over a year and you will have made a mega difference to an incomprehensible number of fellow residents of planet earth and all those up the food chain to…well ourselves.

No doubt you have a repertoire of work procedures that you are already using. If there is something that you currently do that is simple with high impact, email it to professionals@sgaonline.org.au right now and we will share it in our next edition.

 

The tricky part of the equation is getting bosses and customers to take a quantum leap with their gardening objectives. Some options;

  1. Take a deep breath, test the water a little and if you do not get a cold stare assume that your current customer or boss is normal and like the rest of humanity has a deep love and respect for nature. Evolution has programmed us that way. (Edward Wilson, a scientific naturalist, called this biophilia and has written a book of the same name) There are risks but frequently you are going to get a pleasant surprise with the response and win some very loyal customers and supportive bosses. Pushing the right buttons will take practice.
  2. If your customer only speaks one language and it is money try the probability of increasing property values. It is highly likely that values are going to be increasingly linked to connections to outdoor spaces that celebrate the diversity of life not our control of it. The data supporting the theory that personal wellbeing is enhanced through connections with the natural world is becoming increasingly strong and access to a natural place is decreasing in our crowded cities and towns. It is only a matter of time before people are prepared to pay a premium for that experience in much the same way as they pay a premium for organic fruit and vegies.
  3. Try and understand what is driving garden decision makers. Many of the decisions we make as we go about our daily lives are driven by our perceptions of what will make us acceptable with groups we want to identify with. We all feel a need to fit in. Work with this and not against it.
  4. Presenting a range of alternatives, all of which are more sustainable than the standard solutions, can give people the feeling that they are in control.

Given most professional gardeners work in a frantic world of unrealistic deadlines, particularly leading up to Christmas, it is still important that we reflect every now and again on where we are and how we fit in. Without a doubt what gardening professionals do is critically important for our planet and the wellbeing of people in an urban environment. Do not underestimate your capacity to influence people. Most are completely at sea once they step outside and need and appreciate your guidance. You have the power to entice them outdoors and to help them reconnect with nature.

Do the right thing for the world of nature and good karma will come to you and your family…no worries.

WE ARE CURRENTLY DEVELOPING A SUSTAINABLE GARDENING ASSESSMENT TOOL FOR PROFESSIONALS. This will provide a framework for you to discuss your gardens with your clients and bosses and will be available in 2018.

After thought – I have just been having an early morning scan of Edward Wilson’s book Half the Earth. A single sentence is still reverberating “the biosphere gave rise to the human mind, the evolved mind gave rise to culture, culture will find a way to save the biosphere” What is culture? I like this definition because us people on the ground can relate to it and shape it:  “the ideas, customs, and social behaviour of a particular people or society”

Our mission as gardening professionals needs to be to relentlessly inch ourselves and our customers/clients/bosses/visitors toward reconnecting with nature and to win back space for the natural world, a square metre at a time.