Whatever Felder Rushing’s “slow gardening” is, I’m for it. Rushing, despite his actual horticulture degree, radio show, books and years on the speaking circuit, is also one of the few real characters in the gardening world. He stands out from the crowd not just by his distinctive look and Mississippi accent, but by ruffling feathers with statements like these:

•  “You don’t have to have your soil tested.”

•  “Green side up, that’s the big deal.”

•   Or on how to compost:  “1. Stop throwing that stuff away, and 2. Pile it up somewhere. There are whole books written about composting,” the existence of which he clearly finds ridiculous.

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Read the last Garden Rant on The Book of Little Hostas.

Thus in Rushing’s book Slow Gardening, a No-Stress Philosophy for All Senses and Seasons, he recommends “forgetting the stinkin’ rules” and “being in tune with whatever rings your bell.” And for pity’s sake, do it yourself rather than hiring someone to do it for you. Slow gardening is the opposite of the instant makeovers we see on TV and in perfect magazine gardens, which are done by professionals.

But don’t go thinking slow gardening is the same as low-maintenance gardening. To Rushing, topiary artists and dedicated hybridizers are practitioners of slow gardening because they’re doing what they’re passionate about. And guess who else he includes in the happy world of slow gardeners—“sharply focused lawn fanatics.” Sorry, I just don’t buy that lawn perfectionists are passionate rule-breakers who engage all their senses, connect with nature, yada yada yada. But Felder, it’s your philosophy—you get to define it. (Pardon the lapse into first-name familiarity but now’s a good time to confess that as two Southern garden writers still holding onto their hippie ways, we’ve become pals.)

But I’ll forgive Felder’s curious inclusion of what I call Torojockeys in the slow club because he’s a big proponent of less lawn and the use of hand tools, declaring that “the perfect lawn has become a symbol of ridiculous excess.” And I’m happy to report that his lawn care advice is environmentally sound. Actually, his advice about everything is environmentally sound—just not necessarily politically correct.

Don’t go thinking slow gardening is all organic either, because true to his laid-back nature and his horticultural degree, Felder’s no purist on any topic. In fact, he’s often heard recommending the controversial herbicide Roundup.

Wish we were all slow gardeners, but for the most part, it would be hard for anyone to get their knickers in a bunch, as he’d put it, over Felder’s sensible approach, exemplified in his advice on dealing with pests. Though some pesticides are safe, why not just tolerate the pest or, if you can’t, grow something else? “Try looking at the plant from 10 feet away. Take off your glasses, stop obsessing and a lot of garden headaches disappear.”

Works for me!

I’ve decided to adopt Felder’s laid-back attitude toward the few details in his book that I take issue with—the practices I advise against and the inclusion of some questionable types in his Big Ole Tent. Hey, maybe those Torojockeys will read this book and stop being such resource-wasting tightasses. 

In fact, I wish everyone would read this book and adopt a more Felderian attitude. They’d enjoy their gardens more, be kinder to the environment and be less contentious toward their fellow gardeners for sure.

Susan Harris co-founded the award-winning blog GardenRant and blogs professionally for independent garden centers. Her articles about gardening, especially alternatives to conventional lawns, have appeared in national magazines. Susan’s nongardening blog, Boomer Turn-ons, covers the music, technology, second careers, and so on that are turning Baby Boomers on these days.