The word "natural" is often misused, especially by corporations that are able to advertise something as natural but aren't held to any regulatory or clearly defined standards about what is considered natural. However, this does not change what the word actually means, which is simply "existing in or caused by nature; not made or caused by mankind." This denotes something that transcends beyond human innovation. Plants are natural, the sun is natural, water is natural, air is natural, etc. These are all elements of reality that we depend on to live but have had no involvement in creating.
Now, what is a garden? "A plot of ground, usually near a house, where flowers, shrubs, vegetables, fruits or herbs are cultivated." So, in a garden, humans cultivate & care for plants. In nature, plants are in wilderness survival mode.
So if nature is that place where humans are not involved, & a garden is that place where humans cultivate plants, a natural garden is somewhere between. To us, it makes sense that a natural garden would require taking the plants of an untouched, localized natural environment & bringing them into the garden outside of your door. This provides a space where you can feel in nature, but in a much closer, tidier, personalized location. The difference is most people just have yards, landscapes, or a garden, but don't have a natural garden. So why do you need a natural garden? Below are many reasons why natural gardens are all around better.
Before we can explain why you should install a natural garden, we must first explain why you should garden in the first place. Gardening is now considered a novelty of sorts. It might seem odd to think about, but there once was a time when humans didn't stock their refrigerators with produce from the big box grocery store. People actually had to grow their food directly from the earth. In most parts of the world, this is still the case, & it's still where our food comes from before it hits the grocery store. So, the first reason to garden is it provides the necessary resources we need to sustain our lives. It provides us with food! Not only that, but this food is fresher, healthier, & tastier!
Gardening helps us in many ways.
It provides us exercise & exposure to fresh air & sunshine.
It helps us clear our mind & decompress.
It gives us an opportunity to contemplate problems & think of solutions.
It provides us a space to watch & learn about how life works.
It gives us a sense of fulfillment as we watch things grow.
We feel installing or retrofitting a conventional yard, or an ornamental or normal garden, into a natural garden only expands on the benefits of gardening.
A natural garden is one that emulates the natural environment of the homeowner. Since we live in San Diego, California, we install natural gardens with plants that grow in our area. This provides many benefits to the overall garden in ways no other plants can.
BIRDS AND POLLINATORS
When you emulate nature in your garden, you start to invite the birds & pollinators that have been living in our area for thousands of years. These precious life forms have been surviving in these environments using the plants as shelter, protection, rest, & food. They need their plants to feel at home. It would be like taking a bird out of the rainforest & putting it in a desert. The bird isn't designed nor has it adapted to survive in that environment. That is essentially what we have done with our modern day cities. We have removed much of what was here naturally & replaced it with unnatural things, like asphalt, concrete, & plants from other parts of the world that in most cases don't provide much for our local ecology.
When you invite birds & pollinators to your yard, they start to help you garden without you knowing it. Birds love to eat insects off plants. They essentially help you control pests. Pollinators such as butterflies, bees, moths, & flies help your plants produce fruit by carrying pollen from one plant to another. One third of all food in the grocery store is dependent upon pollinators doing what they do. That means, your natural garden is providing a beneficial world for those around you. A natural garden is a living system functioning everyday, even when you are unaware. It is a win-win for everyone when life is supported.
One thing about gardening is you need water for plants to grow. With so much space, many people will leave their ground bare around their garden so they save water, while other gardeners may feel guilty for using so much water to keep their non-native plants alive.
The beauty of natural gardening is that no matter where you live, the native plants that grow in your area are already accustomed to the particular climate, soil composition, & terrain of where you live. Slopes are a great example of taking a bare, problematic eye sore & turning it into a drought-tolerant, easy-to-maintain space where birds can perch, nest, & thrive, all while creating beauty & preventing erosion. Native plants are able to stabilize a slope in the dead of heat with minimal rainfall because they are designed & adapted to that environment.
FEELS LIKE HOME
Living in Southern California is a blessing. The beauty of this place is beyond words, & it can only be truly admired when going out into nature. The smells, the way the light hits the plants & casts shadow, the sounds of birds chirping are all things most Californians never experience because we are so far removed from what California actually looks like. However, installing a natural garden brings back the true essence of our home.
While many people think California looks too bare or weedy, in nature there are usually no bare spots aside from outcropping of rocks. Much of what we see near developed areas are foreign, non-native grasses & weeds. These appear after a native habitat is destroyed. On top of this, we have become so accustomed to the same flat greenish-yellow lawns & neatly shaped bushes, it isn't hard to imagine why someone would think a natural garden looks too wild. The beauty of a natural garden, though, is that with proper design, plant selection & placement, & maintenance, you can have a landscape that exceeds the conventional style in both aesthetic & function.