The Jasmine Garden is, as far as possible, an organic and sustainable project. Why?
The answer is part-practical and part-philosophical.
On the practical side, I aim to provide us with as much chemical-free, healthy and fresh food as I can. For residents of Egypt, this has been something of a luxury, but there are signs the times are changing, and more enterprises now produce certified organic/healthy food commercially – at a price.
Our garden is full of wildlife, from bees to spiders to birds both resident and migratory. This is as it should be. I take the growing variety of life in the garden to be a sign of its health. I wish we had more earthworms – the state of the soil is a concern. I’m working on that by composting; up to now I can’t produce as much as we need, but I’m dedicated to the task.
Still, not all wildlife is welcome – we have our fair share of pests. I try to limit them by monitoring, pruning and hand-control (squish those pests!) but sometimes more drastic measures are called for: badly affected plants may be uprooted. Biological controls such as pheromone traps haven’t worked. Hygiene is a major concern in any garden, but especially an organic one; this is an uphill struggle in Egypt as local gardeners tend not to understand its importance.
Beyond my own garden, the aim is to care for the wider environment. Eschewing the use of chemicals, in a country where their use as fertilisers and pesticides is – arguably – out of control is a positive contribution. A garden created on previously uncultivated desert, is by definition disturbing the balance of nature. The least I can do is to minimise any serious environmental impact.
I have been challenged on our use of water: is a thirsty lawn justified in a country where water is a precious resource? Should agriculture take precedence and the “domestic gardener” be reined in? I think the challenge is a fair one. We have reduced the area of lawn considerably; irrigate responsibly; and save kitchen water, where suitable, to use on raised beds and potted plants.
I strongly believe that those of us who are blessed with many, if not all, the comforts of life should strive to use them wisely and unselfishly. The world’s resources are finite; no one section of the population has the right to take more than a fair share. Equally, respect for all living beings – plants and animals and the soil – is fundamental for the long-term health of the planet. Nothing gives me more pleasure than to share the garden with the insects and birds that choose to make it their home – or their feeding ground (within limits!)
We tread upon this earth for only a short time. May we tread upon it lightly.