Why gardening is fantastic if you’re a nerd

The difference between geeks and nerds, for clarification.

Being a nerd is not about what you love; it’s about how you love it.

Wil Wheaton

Gardening is a nerd’s paradise.

Nerds like to use their minds, to learn, to problem solve. Gardening lets you do that, requires you to do that. Move things, try things, experiment with different growing media, make mistakes, move on. No two seasons are the same. You can get into the technical stuff. Things have Latin names.

I’ve learnt that potting up leggy tomato seedlings by surrounding the delicate stalks with compost helps develop a stronger root system and a healthier plant. That Bigga marrowfat peas make quick, easy salad crops. That vermiculite and perlite do different things and when to use sand. That parsley likes to be fed. That I need to chill out with overwatering everything. That you plant squash seeds on their sides so they don’t rot. That you need to watch your growing space, work out where the sun is, where gets windy, where’s sheltered. That you use good compost for house plants unless you want your home filled with fungus gnats.

I have a lot more to learn, and I love that.

Nerds like to think for themselves and challenge received wisdom. It turns out, for example, that adding lots of bits of broken pot (crocks) to the bottom of a pot before adding compost doesn’t help with drainage. That said, I have used bits of polystyrene in the bottom of huge pots, just to keep the weight down. That’s bound to be wrong as well. Every gardener prepares their compost, their beds and their plants in their own way and everyone seems to have an opinion about something.

A spray gun
This bad boy comes with FIVE SETTINGS. And it looks like a GUN.

Nerds like toys. Gardening comes with so many toys. Dibbers, spray guns, propagators, repellents, fleeces, frames, mulches, wormeries, trimmers, mowers, spades, lamps, sprinklers. Beautiful bright colours, shiny plastic or wood and metal, utilitarian or fancy. Almost no batteries or problems with 3G reception. A good piece of gardening equipment is as exciting to me as a laser pen or a tablet, and while it can get pricy it’s usually a damn sight cheaper than a phone and probably doesn’t contain any conflict minerals.

Nerds like to design. Gardening is all about design, from the arrangement of companion plants and beds, to systems to capture and re-use waste and water, to storage, furniture, habitats for nature, successional planting, landscaping and providing food throughout the seasons.

Nerds like to share their passion. Gardeners share knowledge, seeds, plants, ideas.

Nerds like the company of other nerds, but also value their solitude. Gardening can be highly sociable and the web can provide some great communities (as it can for all interests), but gardening is also a fantastic way to isolate yourself from the world.

Nerds enjoy what’s different. Gardeners are so diverse that they’re barely recognisable as a group.

As a gardener you might be like Norman on my street who grows the same red geraniums in his front garden every year or you might be like me and leave the lavender, jasmine, azalea and fuschia to go wild and hope for the best. You might grow in containers in your back yard or be earthing up potatoes on your allotment. You might grow for visual appeal, for food, for the bees. There are as many different types of gardener as there are varieties of vegetables, fruits and flowers.

Gardening also gives you access to things you just can’t buy in the shops – to foods that you don’t see in Sainsbury’s. To tomatillos and cucamelons, African blue basil, eucalyptus lemon bushes, bergamot, borage, electric daisies, rare or traditional varieties. Gardening means you’re OK with the imperfect, the nobbly and the twisted because you grew it and it tastes bloody amazing.

Vive la différence. Be a proud nerd gardener, wherever you are.