Blackbox gardening is one of the new trends in gardening. But what is black box gardening all about? Why is this method worthwhile, how can it be operated successfully, and which plants can be used?
If the plant chooses its own location and there is little or no work to be done in the garden, it has little to do with traditional gardening. We’ll show you the other kind of gardening philosophy – black box gardening – and explain how we and nature can benefit from it.
What is black box gardening?
Blackbox gardening is a somewhat unconventional way of equipping and designing the garden with plants. The word “black box” comes from systems theory and means a closed, actually very complex system that is only viewed from the outside and not explored inside.
A nice observation spot – in the Blackbox Garden more is observed than intervened
Blackbox Gardening: A Definition
Applied to the garden, the black box means the following: We see the plant community as a system that organizes itself, while we only act as initiators and observers. Plants are introduced into the garden in advance, taking into account the site conditions. But which of these plants can survive and where they spread – these decisions are not made by the gardener. They result from where the respective plants feel most comfortable. So that the plants can change their location and thus “choose”, self-seeding plants are the main element.
Of course, even in black box gardening, the framework conditions are defined in advances – such as the bed sizes and the general layout of the garden. And of course, in contrast to a pure “black box” in the garden, it is always possible to intervene in a regulating manner. In the following, we will show you how black box gardening can actually be implemented in the garden.
Seed plants play an important role in black box gardening – they spread and reproduce themselves
Tip: You can of course also combine a classic garden with the Blackbox Gardening system. It is advisable, for example, to form a “structural framework” from trees and to fill the areas in between using the black box system.
Benefits of black box gardening
Gardening according to the black box system has some clear advantages:
- With black box gardening, little time is required, planting work and bed care within the framework of the system are largely eliminated.
- The costs to start with such a garden system are comparatively low since a lot of work is done with seeds at the beginning.
- Planting appropriate to the location is ultimately possible even without much knowledge of plants, as the selection of plants is regulated by the location itself.
- Even native plants will settle and multiply on their own, which in turn supports the native insect world.
- The surviving plants are healthy, while plants unsuitable for the location are not artificially kept alive and disappear.
- There is an annual surprise as to which plants will reappear or even multiply in the coming year. This leads to a continuous natural change in the garden.
The white flowering Japanese dandelion reliably self-collects
Tip: The black box gardening principle can be applied particularly well to areas that otherwise cannot be used sensibly and cannot or should not be watered or mowed. This is why some people also refer to black-box beds as “gap filler beds”.
Disadvantages of black box gardening
But there are also some clear disadvantages to black-box gardening:
- Blackbox gardening requires patience: Especially if you start with little knowledge of plants, the garden could look a bit gappy and ailing in the first few years – until some well-growing plants establish themselves or you have a happier hand when planting seeds.
- The long waiting time until the finished black box garden tempts you to intervene in the system earlier – which only makes sense to a limited extent.
- Wild plants can be an asset, but also a nuisance. If they overgrow all other plants, regulating action must be taken.
In the initial stage, the garden will therefore still look a bit empty or untidy – but the reward for the long waiting time will then increasingly appear year after year. With a combination of planned and self-governing areas, you can sweeten this dry spell.
A somewhat “wilder” piece in the garden can also look decorative
This is how you should proceed with black box gardening
Blackbox gardening can be used when you are just laying out your garden or when you want to redesign your areas. It is of course also an interesting observation object and therefore something for gardeners who are keen to experiment. How to do it:
- Analyze location: is it dry, warm, humid, cold, sunny, shady, partially shaded? What type of soil is there? In addition to determining the type of soil, it may also be worthwhile to determine the acidity of the soil. Based on this information, plants and seeds can be selected for a start-up.
- Create basic structures: mark out beds, possibly plant trees. Paths, hedges, stone walls, or other solid elements now find their place.
- Prepare the soil: Loosen the open areas, add compost or mulch material if necessary and remove unwanted plants such as overgrown weeds.
As with normal planting, the first step is preparation
- Plant selection: Select plants and seeds based on the site conditions. In black-box gardening, seeds are of particular importance. Annual summer flowers are possible as well as perennials and small trees. Many perennial and seed nurseries even offer black box starter packages for different locations. Our Gardender Premium insect pastures, which contain low, blooming summer flowers and perennials, are also a good start for a sunny area. With the seed mixtures, you can provide food and refuge for bees, butterflies, and beneficial insects.
- Sowing: Distribute the plants and seeds in different places in the garden so that it will find out by itself where they will grow best. Please note, however, that some plants like to grow in groups, others prefer to grow all by themselves.
Tip: It makes sense to mark the places where seeds were planted. This will allow you to later distinguish the germinating plants from weeds and not accidentally uproot them.
Meadows of flowers are a good basis: Colorful with lots of buzzes
- Care for sowing: Now it’s time to water and wait. Some seeds may take longer to germinate – be careful not to overgrow unwanted weeds in the meantime. Beautiful and useful wild plants that you like can of course be given a place in the garden.
Suitable plants for black-box gardening
Finally, we would like to introduce you to some of the plants that are suitable for black-box gardening:
- Columbine ( Aquilegia spec. ): Spreads quickly and the flowers are reminiscent of a fairy forest.
Magical Columbine flowers
- Hawkweed ( Hieracium aurantiacum ): Also multiplies through runners; long flowering; withstands long periods of drought.
The hawkweed spreads through subterranean runners
- Marigold ( Calendula ): A must in a natural garden, because it gathers itself diligently and offers insects a rich buffet.
- Hollyhocks ( Alcea ): The long flower stalks prefer a sheltered location.
Hollyhocks do not bloom until they are 2 years old
- Ornamental onion ( Allium ): flower balls attract insects, propagation via onions.
The different types of ornamental leek bloom in different colors
Sowing a meadow of flowers is also an easy-care and natural way to layout the garden. You can find out how to do this and which plants are also a good choice for insects in our special article.
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