Just What is the Definition of Gardening?

Just What is the Definition of Gardening?

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A guest rant by Tom Alexander


A good friend and best selling author on marijuana cultivation
recently submitted his books to the Garden Writers Association for their annual
Quill & Trowel awards.

At first he was told his works wouldn’t be considered for the
awards because the judges didn’t consider them to be “gardening.” Then he
received word that his works would be considered but “the judges had a
significant difference of opinion as to whether the subject matter was
gardening. Lacking a specific definition of gardening, which will be resolved
later, the group accepted your entries for review and judging.” To say the
judges were prejudiced and his chances at an award were next to zero would be
an understatement.

Obviously, there is going on behind the scenes at the GWA a
discussion as to just what defines gardening. I would submit that even though
marijuana is illegal (for a few more months at least in California),
cultivating the plant is gardening (or farming in the larger plots.) Many marijuana
gardeners have researched breeding and cultivation techniques that are way
beyond anything that many land grant universities are doing, both in soil and

Even though the plant is considered a weed, it needs a good
growing medium, lots of nutrients and water. It needs pruning to bush out for
maximum yields. It needs close attention, especially indoors for pests such as
white flies, aphids and spider mites. Gardeners also have to pay attention to
when the flower buds are at their maximum ripeness just like vegetables and
other flowers. In short, it needs a human to attend to its needs. To me that is
the definition of gardening: plants needing humans to survive and flourish.

In the gardening world, many times there is an elitism that is
sort of inherent in the plants and kind of garden a gardener grows. Those that
don’t know the latin names of every plant turn their nose up at those that do.
Those that like fancy flower gardens with a feng shui design, look down at
those who garden in more of a disorderly kung fu design. Vegetable gardeners
think their gardens are better than flower gardeners. Container gardeners
choose the beauty and art of the container over growing in soil. And vice versa
in many of those examples.

Now we have the non marijuana gardeners considering marijuana
growers as not gardeners at all.

Gardening is much like obscenity. You know it when you see it.
For me, the definition of gardening should be the planting, tending,
cultivation and care of a plant; any and all plants, including marijuana. Just
because it is for now, an illegal plant, doesn’t exclude it from being grown
and considered gardening. Moral and personal judgements shouldn’t come into
play as to what is gardening. In fact it is much more difficult to garden
marijuana because the gardener has to worry about the garden getting stolen by
thieves or confiscated by law enforcement. Most gardeners don’t have to worry
about those two reasons for crop failure in their gardens.

Tom Alexander has been a gardening publisher since 1980. His
blog, GrowingEdge.com covers all aspects of sustainable, organic and
non-genetically modified legal gardening and farming in soil, hydroponically,
aquaponically and in greenhouses. In September he also is reviving his
marijuana information blog, SinsemillaTips.com . Follow him on Twitter
@thegrowingedge .

Posted by

Elizabeth Licata
on August 30, 2010 at 5:00 am, in the category Guest Rants, Ministry of Controversy.

    • greg draiss
    • 23rd August 2017

    So if I am cultivating poppies in Afghanistan in my organic second floor deck in self watering pots that is not gardening?

    • KJ
    • 7th September 2017

    What is gardening then? People who plant gaudy annuals in circular swaths that are overwatered, overfertilized? People who buy whatever is pretty at the big box and plop them into the ground? I think it runs both ways, and I would consider the marijuana grower MORE of a gardener than the previous two since they require a knowledge of biology and chemistry and understanding the plant than aforementioned ‘plant enthusiasts’.
    I very much dislike garden elitism in this sense. Maybe it is because it is sometimes running parallel to socio-economic and political lines. I personally know how I would fix the gardens of everyone of my neighbors around me to suit my tastes, but would never dream of enforcing that on anybody but myself, much less telling them that they are not actually “gardening”.
    We actually owe quite a bit of thanks to the marijuana growing industry for their advances in hydroponics, lighting, plant genetics, and hormones. They have created a market for these items, and have made these available for the non-marijuana growing gardener as well.

    • trey
    • 8th September 2017

    The following was my comment made at my last post titled, “Where is the Passion.” http://thegoldengecko.com/blog/?p=912

    • admin
    • 10th September 2017

    GWA probably relented due to thoughts of a lawsuit.

    • Jan
    • 10th September 2017

    My simple explanation of gardening is growing things outside. When I move some of my pots inside for the winter, I switch to, well, messing around with houseplants to get me through until I can go back outside and garden. Logical? No.

    • admin
    • 11th September 2017

    “Obviously, there is going on behind the scenes at the GWA a discussion as to just what defines gardening.”

    • trey
    • 11th September 2017

    The upcoming referendum on legalizing marijuana growing here in California may nor go quite the way people expect. According to the law, if passed you would be allowed to grow a 5X5 plot of marijuana in your yard. The law stipulates that while this would be legal throughout the state, municipalities would be free to add their own set of rules. The city of Rancho Cordova, just a few miles from here plans on instituting a $600 tax on every square foot you cultivate. If you use the whole 5X5 area you will be taxed $15,000 a year. http://www.sacbee.com/2010/08/29/2990210/rancho-cordova-asking-voters-to.html

    • Susan in the Pink Hat
    • 11th September 2017

    Agreed. The GWA objected because of law concerns, not over a definition. To endorse a book that condones an illegal activity in the other 49 states would be unconscionable. They chose a polite but condescending escape route.

    • greg draiss
    • 11th September 2017

    Right on with hydroponics…………………
    Big business with lights etc.

    • UrsulaV
    • 12th September 2017


    • admin
    • 12th September 2017

    I am definitely calling my yard a king fu garden now.

    • Gloria
    • 12th September 2017

    Responding to Ursula V, if growing only one plant exempts one from being a gardener then many Tomatoe growers would be in the same catagory. Hear any complaints about books on growing tomatoes?
    Does marijuana cultivation lead to vegetables and ornamentals?

    • Kaviani
    • 12th September 2017

    I’m on board with Ursula V. Cannabis growers are farmers, not gardeners unless they’re actually growing it in a garden (and per the author’s comments, that’s just a stupid idea). A next-gen, laboratory-style hydroponic get-up is not a garden however impressive it may be.

    • Kaviani
    • 12th September 2017

    @ Gloria
    “Does marijuana cultivation lead to vegetables and ornamentals?”

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