Science in the Garden: Reaping the Rewards of Recycling and Recuse
After his retirement as a professional welder, when you hear the term “experiment”, you might connect it to places like a lab or school. Have you ever thought of science in the garden? A local gardener, Mario Guardiero, has taken this concept seriously and brought together the idea of recycling and reusing.
Mario has always loved gardening since his childhood when he helped in his family farming operations in Italy. He continued with his passion for growing plants when he moved to Canada. Mario enjoys the activity and the food he grows in his wonderful backyard garden. What makes Mario’s gardening skills even more rewarding is his keen interest in recycling and reusing the materials that would otherwise will end up in the garbage dump adding to earth’s pollution. Here is an example.
When Mario found out that his neighbours were building a new fence and were throwing the old one out, he thought of reusing the fence in a way that would prevent it from being wasted. The old steel fence was similar to the one shown in Figure 1 (arrow). Mario decided to reuse this old fence to set up a new fence around the main garden plot in his backyard. In that garden, he grows various vegetables — tomatoes, lettuce, beans, celery, and more. With this new fence he could now grow plants without having to worry about critters eating them (Figure 2). In this way, Mario did not have to use barriers made from plastic that did not quite deter the animals from feeding on fruits of his labour.
Mario and his wife Maria love to prepare a variety of recipes which require organic and homemade food. For example, he uses the vegetables from his garden to make his own tomato and pasta sauces. Mario says “it’s better to grow your own food. That way you know where its coming from”. He suggests that we should all consider growing food at home if possible.
Mario pays attention to sustainable gardening and uses his own home-made fertilizer. He always keeps a compost bin, where the organic waste decomposes with the help of insects and tiny organisms. Mario also uses ashes from his fireplace and adds it to the compost and soil. This creates a full cycle, from plants to ashes and back to plants! Mario does not use any other fertilizer to feed his plants. For watering his plants, he uses rainfall water collected in big barrels (Figure 3). When it rains, the water that would just run into the ground fills up the barrels. This is a smart and eco-friendly way to water plants and save water use.
To Mario, his garden is his science lab. He conducts experiments such as finding the best spots in his backyard to grow specific plants which give best crops in full sun, partial sun, or shade. Some places have better sunlight or shade, so he decides where certain plants should be grown to produce maximum food. He often improvises to provide shade to his shade loving herbs using used materials (Figure 4)
Recently, Mario has creatively built a tabletop net house (Figure 4), which can protect and provide a guarantee for important seeds and seedlings for propagation, which would be transplanted to the main garden. The net house was also built using the wood panels from discarded wooden deck which shows his keen interest in recycling.
Mario loves figs and he has maintained a fig tree, a tropical plant, for more than 5 years and enjoys sweet figs (Figure 5). Again, using his experience from past experiments, Mario keeps the fig tree outside in the summer, and inside in his home for the winter. He is now propagating his fig tree using small cuttings taken from branches of the original tree (Figure 6).
Currently, more people are understanding the significance of locally grown food. Growing our own crops wherever possible can reduce carbon footprint caused by transportation of food grown elsewhere. Additionally, it is becoming clearer that climate change is influencing the environment and consequently the food production globally. The world population is growing at a rapid pace and therefore the efficiency of food production must also be increased to sustain humanity. It is very important to take care of our planet in every way we can. Even the smallest savings of natural resources count big in this battle against changing climate which adds to ongoing extinction of biodiversity. Individuals like Mario Guardiero, give us inspiration to think about sustainable use of natural resources and practice reuse and recycling to make a difference in our efforts to save the planet.