It’s Not Black or White, It’s in the Middle
By George Szaszvari
Human beings seem to like bandwagon causes to jump on to, and many are definitely worthy, but let’s consider all sides of any given argument, for and against, without getting too carried away and pretending to have all the answers. I’d like to see residents here look more closely into ridding our environment of all unnecessary concrete and blacktop, which contributes to the Phoenix heat dome. There has recently been a clamor to do away with lawns, which seems like a good idea when we can plant such areas more productively, but we should be careful about completely doing away with all of our grass areas, as some seem to advocate. Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water!
While reducing extravagantly large swathes of manicured lawns seems like a good idea in most cases, it isn’t advisable to eliminate our lawns completely, especially in our hot climate. Lawns in or around one’s residence or workplace provide essential energy savings by cooling and helps clean heavily polluted air in ways many don’t yet seem to be aware of. Having a small lawn for a natural recreation and relaxation area for family and pets, provides essential stress relief in life, too.
I like the attitude for reducing the use of power tools in gardens since this diminishes noise pollution as well as the carbon footprint. Having livestock, I don’t work on my lawn at all, other than annually digging up some volunteer “weeds” (mainly ones my wife is allergic to) since the livestock (equines in our case) are regularly turned out to graze on the grass. Grass is food for livestock! The property landscape has a natural and wild appearance, with hand tools used 99 percent of the time to prune only where absolutely necessary. When a chainsaw is necessary (for tree limb breakages, etc.), I use an electric one, which is not only infinitely cleaner and simpler than the gas type, but also has better torque.
When I moved here 14 years ago I made a point of planting and growing as many different kinds of plants as are possible to grow here, mostly fruit bearing trees, on a third of an acre, with lots more shrubs and other plants, creating an intensely diverse habitat as well as a year-round food supply (helped with container vegetable gardening) and summer shade, the latter providing extremely effective cooling for the dwellings. Note that dense shade also suppresses Bermuda grass growth.
Growing only native plants? For a desert landscape without flood irrigation, that is a great idea. I do grow drought tolerant plants on the property border edges, so not just native, but with flood irrigation (that uses the main canals originally built by a previous indigenous people) I like to have as much plant diversity as is reasonably possible.
I avoid the use of pesticides, bar the occasional NATURAL remedy for a specific gardening issue. Our fertilizer is the natural composted type from weeds, selected food scraps, and livestock waste.
George Szaszvari’s Bio: Howdy, Pardners! Yours truly hails from across The Pond, born in 1950 of post WWII Hungarian emigres in London, UK, with travel experiences giving me a particular fondness for the cultures, music and cuisines of SE Europe. Subsequently, an admiration for the constitutional republic and the magic of the US Southwest drew me to Arizona where I married Vicki (a native zonie) in 2000, honeymooned in Monument Valley, to finally become a naturalized US citizen on Statehood day, February 14, 2014.
Moving to Arizona gave me, for the first time, a home with a small plot of land to play with and grow my own edible fruits that were only previously available from grocery stores or travels to Mediterranean climates. My wife, Vicki, who majored (U of A) in Ag Ed and Animal Sci has been a great help in this journey of exploration, and having flood irrigation is a God send too! Working in the landscaping business here for 4½ years gave me some invaluable experience on the practical side of things too (nowadays I try to stay out of the afternoon heat.)
Eventually I came across other people interested in gardening and home grown food, particularly our local Permaculture movement, led by the irrepressible Greg Peterson, providing fabulous encouragement and support for all gardeners and urban farmers in the Phoenix metroplitan area, as well as raising the public consciousness concerning green oriented quality of life issues in and around the Valley.
Brought up as a “townie”, with a love for the countryside, my introduction to “green” matters was via the UK Ecology Party in the 70s, and if human beings tend to like bandwagon causes to jump on to, and while many are worthy, let’s also consider all sides of any given argument, for and against, without getting too carried away with the slogans and mantras, and pretending to know all the answers. Sure, there are obviously times we need to act and show solidarity with a common cause, especially in matters of health and survival (which also feed two of the largest global industries) but let’s also stay awake as independent students of life always willing to learn. A good example of such diligent honesty is provided by James Lovelock, author of “Gaia”, one of those voices that originally alerted the world to issues of global warming, who recently made this statement.
As well as gardening my other interests include hanging out with my wife, Vicki, and horseback riding with her (she’s a lifelong rider, and she got me into it in 2000, when we met.) “Internal” martial arts training since 1974 for both self-defense and health. Attention to diet helps too, but a daily gentle exercise routine, or partner practice, which anyone of any gender, age 18 or above, can safely do using common sense, keeps me relatively healthy and fit enough as I approach my twilight years. (If curious, ask me about it.)
As a single man I rode motorcycles, played the game of chess, and engaged in other pursuits, but things had to change after getting married and moving to this big sky country with its promise of the outdoors. I’ve always been a history buff, particularly of the Old West lately, which goes in hand with enjoying Cowboy Action Shooting when I can. Noticeable in our home menagerie of 3 horses, several fowl, and 3 dogs, are also the cats that have either adopted us or been rescued by us. A few were born here too. I have a particular affinity for our furry feline friends and, besides having the freedom of the house, our property, with all its nooks and crannies, is designated as their “Secret Cat Garden”.