One steamy night last week my dog and I stopped on the footpath outside a neighbour’s house to say hello as she watered her garden. My errant dog seized on the moment as another glorious opportunity to cock his leg and wee. I apologised on his behalf, knowing my neighbour had recently painted her picket fence. And that’s when she said something I found quite depressing.
‘I’m the one who should apologise, wasting all this water.’ She seemed anxious. ‘It was just so hot today.’ She had the same look my kids get when they’re caught with a ring of chocolate around their lips.
‘But it’s your night,’ I said. ‘You’re an even, and it’s past eight.’
‘Oh, I know,’ she said. ‘But everyone thinks gardens are a waste of water don’t they?’
I hope that’s not true. Like everyone, I’m trying to be responsible about the amount of water I use. But I still believe that gardens deserve some of this finite, valuable resource. The amount of greenery in suburban areas is shrinking all the time due to larger houses and off-street parking entirely consuming blocks, sprawling residential developments, and changes in landscape design that incorporate more hard surfaces than plants.
Across the globe, governments are allowing industry to raze large tracts of earth, wiping out rainforests, parks and bushland. Factories, cars and planes are filling the air with carbon emissions. One of the many things we can do to offset this is plant trees and shrubs and then keep them alive.
Plants absorb carbon dioxide and produce oxygen. That’s why places like Central Park in New York are called the ‘lungs of the city’. As well as cleaning the air, plants deliver moisture to it. The water vapor transpired by plants’ leaves contributes to the formation of clouds and, eventually, rain. By keeping your garden alive you are making an active contribution to ending drought. Seriously. So we need to use some of the water at our disposal to tend our plants – if they were to all go belly up the air would be unbreathable, rain clouds could not form and local wildlife would starve.
The positive impact on the environment is, of course, the loftiest reason for growing a garden. Designing gardens and nurturing plants is also good for one’s mental and physical health, an opportunity to produce your own clean food, a way to educate your kids about the interconnectedness of all living things, and a creative outlet.
So when next you are watering your garden – responsibly and legally – hold your head high. It’s worthy work you’re doing.