My family name of Stewart has its origins in being appointed as the steward or manager of properties, and as I trial new ways of managing my farm and garden, I like to pay my respects to the Aboriginal core concept of being custodians and managers rather than exploiters of the land. Their management systems looked very much to only taking what they needed but also worked to keep the land and all in it healthy for the future. I believe that this has been central to them being the oldest living continuous culture in a harsh land that is subject to frequent extremes of drought and flood and fire. With climate change now beginning to exacerbate these extremes, and now the tightening financial systems and inflation creating additional pressure, we would hope that our systems of governance and large companies would be looking towards good management of the risks and challenges ahead. As individuals we can also act now to set ourselves up better for the future.
Hence why I called my new book ‘Futureproof Your Garden’. Written along with my daughter Emma, we have always looked towards living more lightly and sustainably on the land. We have seen that the changing climate effects are being seen first in nature and in farming and gardening systems. As good stewards we can act individually to not only make a difference to our individual environments, but also to work towards a better understanding of what we can do as a society to be better custodians of our global environment.
I often hear people talking about how we are destroying our planet and its biodiversity. It certainly is true that the pressures that the human population is creating is driving many species to extinction. However, the earth has had mass extinction events millions of years ago such as when the dinosaurs disappeared. Ice ages have come and gone more recently and had profound effects on biodiversity. In my opinion the planet and life on earth will not disappear, it is the human species that is likely to disappear, and whatever biodiversity is left will take evolution in its next direction. My point is that we have our destiny in our hands and our book is an attempt to help those who want to take action to do something in their own backyards.
Futureproof Your Garden also gives a lot of practical information on how to grow more with less. Ideas such as creating a do it yourself wicking bed from recycled materials not only shows how to reduce water use by up to 70%, it also is a great recipe for getting your plants to thrive and grow to their full potential. The reservoir of water underneath the wicking bed sends er up from below and ensures that your plants always have water at their disposal, in other words they never undergo water stress that often severely limits plant growth, especially those grown in containers. Feeding your wicking bed with organic liquid fertiliser generated from a worm farm has given me great results and shows how we can grow a lot more with a lot less while treading lightly in environmental terms.
The use of charcoal, a form of biochar, is another example of practical ideas for the garden. Charcoal is a very stable form of carbon that persists in the soil for many decades, and also acts as a sponge to retain water and nutrients. Even more importantly, the pore spaces inside the charcoal provide a site where beneficial microbes can thrive if given a diet of organic materials such as animal manure, worm castings or home-made compost. My late, great mate Peter Cundall was a great advocate of this approach and I recall him gleefully smashing up some chunks of charcoal to add to his vegie garden on one of my visits.
Rather than despairing at the challenge that climate change is presenting humanity, let’s look at it as a positive challenge that we can embrace in our own gardens to grow health-giving organic produce whilst using less resources. You can purchase Futureproof Your Garden from my website, from most book shops and from Booktopia.
We wish all our readers a merry Christmas and we look forward to bringing you some great gardening surprises in the new year. In particular, we will be adding more species and cultivars to our online plant nursery and signature seed collection. In particular, we will be offering more of my ‘Tall and Tough’ kangaroo paw range for those who want long-lived cultivars that will help create a wildlife habitat in your backyard.
Happy gardening in 2023 from Gardening with Angus!