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What is Chaos Gardening? And Why You Should Try It

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Chaos gardening is one of the easiest ways to start a garden from scratch. If you don’t have the time, money, or knowledge to start a garden in your home, chaotic gardening is a great solution. Here’s how you can embrace a little chaos and scatter beautiful seeds in your garden.

chaos gardening

Chaos gardening is the latest gardening trend to take over social media. And this is one that I quite like! It embraces the idea of ​​wild, natural spaces and makes gardening even more accessible,

But what you may not realize is that the ideas behind these social media trends, like chaos gardening or no mowing, are rooted in regenerative and permaculture practices…What would happen if we let nature take its course?

Chaos is not only a fun way to garden, but it is also very economical and requires little effort. Here’s how to do it!

chaos gardening greenery
Chaos gardening also works well with perennials and shrubs.

What is Chaos Gardening?

Forget about maintaining a neat row of vegetables or a crisp, perfect green lawn. Chaotic gardening embraces the idea that our gardens can be a little wild and crazy. And this is a good thing.

Chaotic gardening involves taking a handful of seeds, throwing them sporadically into the soil, and crossing your fingers. It’s really very simple.

You can use any seeds, from vegetables to flowers, as long as they don’t require digging deep.

Messy gardening is a response to the overly careful, rigorously planned garden. You don’t have to worry about spacing requirements or trying to maximize yield based on your square footage.

In my first house, I had a very good friend who lived across the street. As a renter, her budget for creating a garden from scratch was minimal.

Although it might not have been called haphazard gardening at the time, that’s exactly what she did. She bought a few packets of native wild flower seeds and threw them in the garden, As the plants grew, she would gradually transplant and organize her garden a bit, but still maintain that wild and natural look.

This is anarchist gardening in its simplest form. But it can also mean letting your plants grow as they want, letting native plants take over, and Embracing a more natural space overall.

A house with a chaotic garden full of flowers and grass
This home uses lots of grass and flowers as part of its “cluttered” design.

Benefits of Chaos Gardening

chaos gardening Saves time and money. If you want to enjoy a garden but don’t want the work of maintaining and planting it or the hefty price tag of filling it with plants, seeds are the way to go.

In my opinion, one of the biggest benefits is how plantings will mimic the natural world. Nature is inherently chaotic and wild, and we don’t always need to completely order it.

Depending on which seed you sow, It can also promote biodiversity in the garden. For the most effective and low-maintenance garden, it is best to plant seeds of native plants. These plants are already accustomed to the growing conditions in your area and will require less work from you to get them to thrive.

Even better, these native plants are already key players in the local ecosystem, Providing food and shelter for wildlife and pollinators, Plants can self-seed late in the year, continuing to grow and regenerate naturally each season.

Chaos gardening isn’t everyone’s cup of tea

I will not lie; Chaotic gardening can seem intimidating to some people. A wilder, more natural look is definitely not everyone’s cup of tea. Even in my own slightly windy but natural space, I get comments and glances from people about my more disorganized approach to gardening.

Rewilding is a big topic in the plant sector at the moment. Although chaotic gardening is not necessarily about going wild, it embraces the way nature naturally grows.

Why are we always trying to control these green spaces in our lives? Do we really need perfectly manicured lawns and gardens? There is a belief that being neat and organized is good, but anything disorganized is bad. But context really is everything.

My friend Laura and her husband Sam have a beautiful, uncluttered garden. I featured his wildlife rescue in my book, regenerative garden, To the untrained eye, their garden may appear to be an extreme mess.

But I see a lot of beautiful plants working together in associations and as food forests. The whole garden produces lots of food and is full of bees and birds, but it looks wild and overgrown.

On either side, their neighbors’ lawns are diametrically opposite. He also complained about the appearance of Laura and Sam’s garden as he found it messy.

But when I saw it I really liked it. As I see it, these wild lawns represent chaotic good, while these perfect lawns represent lawful evil.

Wildlife hedge creating a tunnel as a part of chaotic gardening
Laura and Sam’s Wildlife Hedge.

How to do Chaos Gardening

Potted gardening can be as simple as throwing a mix of seeds into your soil and seeing how it goes. You can be as chaotic as you want, but you can also add some thought and maintenance to it. This is your garden. It’s your prerogative!

Here are some general suggestions to try:

  • Group plants with similar needs. AKA plants that prefer full sun and well-drained soil can be grouped together, making sure they are scattered in the right areas.
  • Select native species. These seeds are more likely to germinate and thrive on their own because they are accustomed to the sunlight, water, temperature, humidity, and soil of the area.
  • Consider local regulations. Things like plant height bylaws or strict HOA rules may limit the plants you can plant and how you plant them.
  • Stomp your seeds. After scattering your seeds, walk through and press the seeds into the soil. This prevents the seeds from flying away.
  • Water your seeds. After scattering your seeds, water the area thoroughly to begin germination.
  • Aftercare. You can choose to leave it as is and let it grow as wild as possible, or you can go in and thin the seedlings, water the plants, add compost or fertilizer, etc.
  • Try messy gardening with vegetable seeds. Scatter seeds like lettuce or carrots in your already established vegetable garden and watch these vegetables fill out the extra space.
seed bomb
These flower seed bombs from my book garden alchemy Chaos is a fun and beautiful way to approach gardening.

seeds to sow

If you need some inspiration about what seeds to grow, here are some of my curated lists.

Echinacea purple coneflower from seeds
I grew these purple coneflowers from seed.

My Final Thoughts on Chaos Gardening

Never tell anyone that you have to do gardening the same way. Whether you like the look of something neat and organized or the look of a wild meadow, you get what you want.

Your garden is your happy place. It doesn’t have to be someone else’s happy place.

My advice is to embrace the little things here and there. It could be a weed that is helping to heal your soil or a volunteer native species that has one day decided to grow in your garden. Things don’t have to be perfect!

Bench with plant pots surrounded by tall greenery, practicing uncluttered gardening

More ways to embrace chaos!

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