I cannot stand this word. I recently looked it up to make sure I wasn’t missing a hidden meaning, but nope, just like I thought, it means to “keep going.” In common parlance, I think folks use this word to mean something that can keep itself going with minimal stewardship from us.
My hatred stems partly from an ongoing dislike of trendy words and silly usages: monetize, “grow” the economy– etc. That is not to say that I don’t love overused words (and double negatives)- eponymous- as in “my eponymous blog,” is my favorite word. But sustainability really sticks in my craw. I was once reading a design magazine where a designer said that he didn’t use stone countertops anymore because they weren’t sustainable. Stone? Not sustainable? What are you standing on? It is the very definition of something that is sustainable!
Now don’t misunderstand this either- we need to consider the environment and ecosystem when we plant and weed and spray chemicals. That is important- but has nothing to do with sustainability.
More to the point for us gardeners, “sustainable” gardens don’t exist. Gardens exists purely because we put plants in a location and take care of them. We are inherently creating an unnatural ecosystem- and even in a restored prairie (as any prairie owner can tell you), a garden’s continuation will depend entirely on our own good graces and our skills at weeding, fertilizer, dividing, planting, digging, burning, composting. Don’t get me started on a sustainable vegetable garden. (Peas and carrots will grow in perpetuity on your property? Now THAT’s impressive.) Anyone who wants to know whether even the most basic gardens are sustainable should find the foreclosed house in their neighborhood and take a look at the garden- it’s the first thing to go.
Could a person sustain a garden in perpetuity? No. And who would want to?Tastes change, climate changes, pests and diseases come and go. Gardening is as much about living today as it is about living in the future. Gardens are ephemeral, artificial creations- and that is one of the things that makes them so impressive and beautiful. Not any idiotic claims of sustainability.