No, it’s not water restrictions, heatwaves, alkaline soil or possums.
It’s a funny phenomenon that I’ve observed over the past few years of talking to neighbours, friends, passers-by and strangers at the market… often one person in a couple or family wants to do something productive in the garden (plant some vegetables or a fruit tree for instance, or start composting) but they don’t because they are afraid of meeting the resistance (real or perceived) of their spouse or partner.
I hear comments like “I’m not allowed to do anything out there – she thinks it will be messy,” “She just doesn’t get it,” or “He won’t help with the upkeep so I’m not going to take it all on myself.” And I see those eyes furtively glancing back at the tray of seeds for sale, while their owner follows obediently along with her partner down the market aisle.
I think, aside from those relationships where it’s all about control more generally, disagreements over the garden provide a great opportunity to work through the areas of conflict and come up with better ideas than either party could generate alone. The key is to treat one another’s wishes, fears and desires with respect, and try to share a vision of what could be. Once some common ground and goodwill has been established, the grunt work is the easy part – and creating something beautiful and delicious together is so much more enjoyable than doing it “in spite of” your partner.
I am reminded of the central ethical principle of permaculture: “care for the people”. And I would love to hear your experiences of gardening with, for, or in spite of a family member who started out with different ideas about how things “should” be.