There’s always a certain measure of chaos in a garden, but chaos gardening has a purpose.
Seeds don’t last forever. And few of us get around to using them all. While you can host a fun seed swap, you can also use those seeds to create a chaos garden. Like books sitting on a shelf, seeds left in a packet do no one any good.
Monoculture v. mixed plantings
In Nature, monoculture rarely exists and never lasts. Pests and disease can quickly take hold, potentially wiping out everything. [Can you say Potato Famine?] Plants grow best when surrounded by other plant species. Meadows are healthier than lawns. Companion planting (in its true sense) is more productive than monoculture. Research has demonstrated that mixed plantings reduce the need for crop rotation, fertilizer, irrigation, pesticides, and added pollinators. And that means a lot less work for you.
Chaos garden design takes advantage of this research by throwing every leftover seed you have into the mix. Instead of every plant grabbing for the same nutrients, a mixture of plant species grows at differing rates, using different nutrients at different times, reducing the strain of competition for all of them. This tight mix of plants chokes out weeds. It also attracts a variety of pollinators and other beneficial insects. This increasing biodiversity boosts pollination rates and creates bigger harvests.
You can use a bare patch of ground, raised bed, a sidewalk strip, an old kiddie pool, or a window box for your chaos garden. Keyhole garden spaces work well, too.
How to plant a chaos garden
Unlike most vegetable gardens, which require planning, rows, and lots of preparation, a chaos garden lets Nature take its course and do most of the work for you. The process is simple:
At this point, you can decide whether to water your chaos garden or not. You can fertilize it or not. It is up to you.
The downside of chaos gardening
Plants growing close together in a riot of leaves and stems can set the stage for fungal diseases such as blights, rots, and spots, so avoid overhead watering. It can also hide pest infestations. Simply throwing a bunch of seeds into a space does not mean your chaos garden is completely maintenance-free. You should still monitor your chaos garden for signs of pests and diseases.
Chaos gardening is a great way to eliminate the waste of unused seeds. And you might be pleasantly surprised when you see how well they grow.
You can grow a surprising amount of food in your own yard. Ask me how!
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