How Gardeners Will Survive the End of the World
The zombie apocalypse is upon us, and it’s up to the gardeners to save us. Armed with shovels and a handful of ecological design principles, it’s time to turn this zombie threat into a horticultural opportunity. This isn’t your grandparent’s rose garden. This is gardening in the zombie apocalypse.
Needs and Yields
There’s an idea in ecological design thinking that the end (yields) of every process is the beginning (needs) of another process. For example, a tree yields fallen leaves which soil life needs to build more soil. In a resilient system, the yields of every element are the needs of another, and nothing is left out. It’s a deceptively simple idea with the ability to reframe our relationship with waste and work. When used in a garden design, we can place elements together in mutually beneficial ways that reduce work and waste.
Waste Is A Yield That Doesn’t Have A Use
If, in a design, we have a yield that isn’t being used, we say that we have waste. In this view, waste isn’t a problem but a missing connection. The conventional question would be, how do we eliminate the waste? A systems approach asks, what need could this waste fulfill? What relationship is missing from this system?
Permaculture designer and instructor Geoff Lawton famously said, “you don’t have a grasshopper problem, you have a turkey deficiency.” The problem isn’t the pest; it’s a missing connection. Adding turkeys is an opportunity to convert a pest problem into an additional yield. This new system not only yields more, but it needs grasshoppers to function.
The classic approach to the zombie apocalypse is to figure out how to get rid of the zombies. But a gardener with an understanding of ecology might ask, what connections are missing from a system yielding zombies?
Work Is A Need That Isn’t Being Met
If an unused yield is waste, an unfulfilled need is work. Work happens when you, the designer, must step in and fulfill a need not being provided internally by the system. Watering, weeding, and turning the compost pile are all examples of a design missing some crucial connections. Fill in these gasps, and you’ll limit the labour required to keep the system running.
Gardening with zombies presents some challenges, but the question to ask is, how can zombies fulfill the needs of my garden and community? What opportunities are there to fold zombies into my gardening practice? What needs and yields paring can I create?
The following is the presentation, Gardening in the Zombie Apocalypse, that I gave to members of the Edmonton Horticulture Society just before Halloween 2019.