Complementary Gardening – A Manifesto


“Osteospermum on Heliopsis” – Whitney Avenue – Wilkinsburg, PA – A selection from my garden… Summer 2013…

The common goal of gardening is harmony… Harmony with the earth… Harmony with the plants… Harmony with the animals… Harmony with ourselves… And harmony with each other… This harmony is achieved through successful (and environmentally sound) gardening practices… A gardener that is in harmony with nature, will grow a healthy garden. This garden will flourish, and as a result it will grow the gardener… The purpose of complementary gardening is to bring all aspects of the gardening movement back where they belong… Together…

The methods used are not nearly as important as the frame of mind in which they are used… Even conventional agricultural practices can be picked from when practicing complementary gardening… It is essentially a blending of the aspects of gardening and life that are important to you… Regardless of your devotion or investment to the cause… Even a few pots on a windowsill are beneficial… Practicing any type of gardening… As long as it provides you with some semblance of joy… Should be considered beneficial… When you are happy… The environment around you is also happy… And that is what gardening is about…

A garden should complement its surroundings in a way that is beneficial to all the elements of the earth… Not just the gardener… Although a garden may have physical borders, the positive effects associated with plant life span well beyond them. A garden is a sentient collection of plants, capable of not only healing itself, but healing the environment (including us) that is around it. In order for a garden to truly be considered successful, it should heal in one form or another… Not just physically… Emotionally and spiritually…

Complementary gardening is not a specific style of gardening, it is a “way of thinking” achieved through the consciences completion of a garden. By consciences, I mean simply being aware that there are connections in nature for you to find. These connections will exist regardless of the size of your garden, and regardless of your devotion to the cause. One thing that turned me off about permaculture is the general feeling that if you don’t shit in a bucket to make compost for your front yard farm, you are not worthy of the cause… It’s like they expect everyone to replace their lawns with food forests… Believe everyone has time to operate a micro-farm… And believe no-one should eat anything that casts a shadow… My beliefs are very different from this… And my writing will now reflect it…

"Buddies" - © chriscondello 2013 - Frick Park - Pittsburgh, PA - Complimentary colors... Growing in the same patch... Yet... None of them were close enough together to photograph... So I put them together...

“Buddies” – Frick Park – Pittsburgh, PA – Complimentary colors… Growing in the same patch… Yet… None of them were close enough together to photograph… So I put them together…

The goal of gardening is to benefit nature. Although we are a part of this equation, we are not the only variable to consider. In my own personal experiences, the gardeners who only talk about how much “produce” was harvested, typically are the ones who don’t have a clue what is going on around them… Unless of course it is written in their little book… In order for gardening to be a complementary activity, it needs to complement all things. Although it is perfectly acceptable to include ourselves in this equation by growing food, it is important to remember we are not the only element worthy of consideration.

Food production, should be secondary to positive energy production. What I mean by this is food production (though perfectly fine), should not overshadow the fact that gardening is intended to be fun, good for you, and good for the environment. When all a gardener is interested in is squeezing as many tomatoes as humanly possible out of a 4’x12′ raised bed, the joy is very often lost. Success is fundamental to sustainability. Constant failure, which is often the result of taking on too much work, often leads to a loss of interest… and the eventual end of the garden all together. I aim to eliminate this sentiment by promoting the gradual and responsible implementation of environmentally sound practices, in all forms of gardening, through practical implementation and easy to understand writing.

A complementary garden, is one that balances the benefits of all the elements of nature with mankind. In the past, the focus of gardening has been on production in one form or another. Vegetables were planted, and the necessary steps were taken to achieve the largest yield possible. The downside of this was that often the environment came secondary to the vegetable yield, and as a result of this, past generations commonly used chemicals as a way to boost yield… Hell… We still do this… Ornamental gardeners are no different, often going to great lengths to pack the most blooms onto their plants while spending as little as possible… And doing as little work as possible…

Speaking from personal experience… Most of the fertilizers, pesticides, herbicide, and fungicides that are available today are very unnecessary… Adding to the equation is the ridiculous amounts of “miracle products and trends” that pop up in stores and on the internet… 99% of these products are worthless… Even more worthless are the application directions that come with them… Many of these chemical products will achieve the desired results when applied in relatively tiny amounts… It is the manufacturer that pushes heavy applications as the more we apply… The more we must purchase…


“Yellow Iris in the Morning Sun” – Spring 2013 – The Garden Table – Wilkinsburg, PA

I really don’t agree with the use of chemicals in the garden… But I understand why people do… Instead of alienating anyone from reading my blog based on their choice of fertilizer… I have decided to instead simply suggest that one research any product before using them… Although my focus will remain on organic gardening… I’m not afraid to discuss the chemical world… And I am not afraid to admit that I use miracle grow in my garden… Though I will admit that my solution is about 1/16 of their recommended application…

I also think it is important to stress that is it ok to get pissed off from time to time… And it is ok to unload in a healthy manner… The purpose of this change is to address the fact that I don’t believe we will ever accomplish the perfect world some people believe is possible… I believe we each have the ability to make small changes… And when we all make small changes, they will eventually add up to much larger ones… Where many of these sub-cultures are constantly pushing you to do more and be more involved… I’m saying do what you can… Every little bit helps… And when you feel comfortable… If you feel comfortable… Add to your toolbox and try something new…

Complementary gardening should benefit you in a way that is not intrusive on your life… Your garden should be a positive complement to the negative aspects of your life, not one of the aspects contributing to the negativity in your life. A gardener, is a gardener, is a gardener… We are all worthy… There are no bad gardeners… Regardless of method… There are differing levels of experience… But in the eyes of a plant… We are all created equal…

plant petunias and question everything – chriscondello

This website and all of the information presented within is provided free by the author… Me… It is my sole opinion and is not representative of anyone other than myself… Although this website is free… I sell prints of my photography here – – or you can contact me directly with questions at – – Although it isn’t a requirement… It helps…

I also accept Bitcoin donations… My digital wallet address is – 1JsKwa3vYgy4LZjNk4YmPEHFJNjPt2wDJj

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11 thoughts on “Complementary Gardening – A Manifesto

  1. Aggie says:

    Wow, you did that iris photo with a cheap camera and limited editing? Awesome. Your closeup photos are so wonderful.
    Somehow this one drifted to the bottom of my inbox for when I had time to read it thoughtfully.

    I two ideas that I came away with are “accept everyone’s individual way of gardening,” and “listen to your plants; they will tell you what they need.” The first is a reminder of the great principle of all spiritual thought systems. Check.

    The second – well I don’t know who else is talking about that. I was the child who loved the produce that I ate from my father’s garden, but read books rather than work in it. Lou, though, hears the messages of the plants. We both read a lot about how best to plant our new garden. And here we are planting an acre of vegetables on land that was bahia grass 6 months ago. Lou tells me the same thing that you have said here. Don’t worry if we don’t have it all perfect. You have seen before that I know how to listen to the plants, and it will be fine. I’m glad that you are writing about this.


  2. narf77 says:

    “Here here!” After studying horticulture for years and collecting and growing hundreds of potted specimens and then moving to 4 acres of overgrown wilderness where we only get rain about 5 times through the summer period it was a sudden short, sharp jolt back to reality. Most of the potted plants have gone to new homes. The ideal “English cottage garden” is bollocks. Half of our 4 acres is being given back to bushland and left to the native animals. The other half is showing us that it is made of sterner stuff. Plants that survived a complete lack of care and water are still alive where so many of their compatriots died. Wandering around the countryside walking the dog and learning to really see what is growing well…what works in our environment and our local growing conditions, what makes my heart sing and what makes me twitch. Realising that gardening is an extension of me, and an expression of what is going on inside me at any given time and that it’s constantly evolving was more worthwhile than any amount of horticultural and landscape design diplomas plastered on my wall. They aren’t on the wall any more. My real education started the moment I set foot on this property and decided to learn how to really garden with nature. 3 years on and it has been a complete learning process where everything I learned has been questioned and put to the test. So much to learn, so little time, so incredibly worthwhile. Loved this post 🙂


  3. I have to share this post as it echos so much of what I feel.


  4. 100% behind your thoughts


  5. Reblogged this on Garden Perspectives by Mary and commented:
    “A gardener that is in harmony with nature, will grow a healthy garden. This garden will flourish, and as a result it will grow the gardener…”


  6. Keep writing Chris!


  7. yellopig says:

    Excellent post! You’ve expressed it well.
    I always think of time I spend out in the yard as “therapy”.
    Best wishes.


  8. SimplySage says:

    Simply stunning photography and great article. If you don’t mind, can you tell me what camera you use? You’re the first I’ve seen use the Bitcoin. Excellent! I’ll definely check out your portfolio.


    • C.Condello says:

      Well… It’s a little embarrassing… I don’t really have any money… So all the photographs on this blog are shot on a Samsung ST150F… It is a $90 point and shoot… I process my photos on an old net book… It’s probably 8 years old… Barely working…

      I use photoshop… But it is a (micro) version that I cracked myself… By micro I mean the entire program is condensed to a size that will fit on a flash drive… Otherwise the program would not run on my computer… The entire program is self contained and around 450 mb total…

      I do as little processing as possible… Largely because my computer is too slow to process anything complicating…

      But I get by…


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