For the typical homeowner, working in the garden is either a tedious but necessary task before getting back to something more substantial. It is a pleasurable respite from daily life's tedious but essential tasks.
Most people fail to realize that gardening is one of the most complex interactions of sciences and math that they can be involved in without having a career directly involved with the sciences. Awareness of these complex issues can make even a simple garden more productive and beautiful while reducing costs and work.
The gardener works with practical geology and inorganic chemistry, starting with the soil and planting. The soil is composed of finely ground-up rocks and minerals in sand, silt, and clay in some mixture. Knowing the pH, chemical composition, and the mix of these components in the soil is critical to properly preparing the soils for planting.
Mixed in with sand and clay is a buildup of organic material, initially naturally occurring compost and mulch. The resulting mix is what a garden’s “dirt” is composed of. Understanding what is there usually leads you to apply necessary amendments properly. Add to that is the understanding of the physics of water drainage to ensure that a productive garden does not become only a water retention pond.
After the soil is prepared, the gardener enters the world of botany and biology. Plants are selected for their adaptability to the soil type and weather conditions of the specific area. If the gardener starts from seeds or adapts existing plants, they enter the areas of plant propagation, genetics, and plant potential. When a plant fails, it is often the result of selecting a plant not well suited to the local conditions. Buying plants not suited to an area is an expensive waste.
After the garden is developed and planted, the gardener begins the often tedious tasks of garden maintenance and the potential work, and money savings can occur.
Fertilization and plant feeding are chemistry applications as all plants need access to sixteen essential chemical elements to reach their true potential. As complex as this issue appears to be for many people, it is surprisingly necessary when the gardener does the math. Most of these sixteen elements are naturally available and of little concern, but five or six require regular addition.
The temptation is to buy a standard mix of chemicals and spread them slowly. Chemicals are expensive since much of this will be wasted and run off to create problems elsewhere. Basic math will show that the amount of plant food is usually measured in teaspoonfuls per plant or perhaps a cup for a whole area.
Finally, calculating the amount of water needed for a garden can dramatically reduce the owner’s water bill as most gardens are over-watered, and the runoff is wasted. That becomes even more important as freshwater conservation is becoming more critical in many areas.
To be an efficient gardener requires an understanding of many different elements.
Underlying all these are the basics of science and math that many people groaned about when in school. But with some introductory study and understanding, a home gardener can use these tools to bring their garden to its full potential and save time, effort, and money.