Yummy garden salad greens decorated with slivered watermelon radish…
I want to tell you all about my lovely June garden… I want to post beautifully composed photos of the peas going gangbusters, of the fresh strawberries we pick to sweeten our morning cereal, the lovely green beans in full flower, and the prairie forbes just opening their petals to the sky.
But tell the truth and shame the Devil, my Grandma Juanita used to say. I’m a sho’ nuff knotty-headed organic gardener and I’ve got to tell it like it is. Something is going on in my garden this year, something that puts the “ugh” in an ugly garden. Brace yourselves.
Friends and supporters have requested that I complete a series I began last year on Organic Pest Control. Prior to doing so, I thought I would provide a link to the series so that new readers can familiarize themselves with my approach to the subject. Check out:
Right around this time of year, landscaping and yard service companies start cruising my neighborhood. They come in search of easy prey: nice middle-class homeowners eager to keep a tidy yard, and concerned about the danger large trees supposedly pose to telephone and electrical wires, the roof, or the neighbor’s five-figure fully winterized RV. They’ll leave flyers in your mailbox or dangling on the doorknob. In my case, they come on up to the stoop and ring the doorbell, having greedily eyeballed the monstrous pin-oak that towers over my house, the phone lines, and the neighbors’ houses on two sides.
“If we top your tree before leaf-fall,” encouraged one sly salesman, smiling his honey-sweet money-shredder smile: “you won’t have any raking to do. We’re insured.”
New readers following my philosophy of organic pest control can click here for links to the entire series as well as for a brief synopsis of the argument as it has evolved in the four previous installments.
Friends, we have to talk about weeds. Soberly. Perhaps even tenderly.
Weeds can bring the hardiest of gardeners to tears; they can turn a reasonable adult into a tantrum-tossing two year old. They can make a sanctified granny take the Lord’s name in vain. Brace yourselves, because I’ve got to tell it straight-from-the-hip the way I see it: weeds are an integral part of a functional, maximally biodiverse ecosystem. As such, they are also part of the organic gardener’s ecological pest-control tool-kit.
Thou shalt suffer no weed to touch the leaves nor crowd the drip line of the tomato plant. Mulch thou the drip line of the tomato with weed barrier, that the tomato’s roots remain cool in the summer sun, and free to feed upon the nutrients of the soil without hindrance.
In Organic Pest Control III: Acts of Gardening Violence, Petty and Profound, I suggested a conceptual framework for organic pest control based on the notion that labor intensive interventions are ecologically harmful. This framework is intended to help organic ecosystem-ers decide when, whether and how to deploy ecological, mechanical, and chemical pest interventions in a selective rather than reactive manner, based upon the peculiar ecologies in which they are working, and based upon their gardening goals and personal resources.
We will explore each intervention — ecological, mechanical, and chemical — in more detail as we progress over the next several installments. I want to begin with ecological intervention, the very chassis of organic pest control.
Also, I challenged organic gardeners to reconsider gardening not as a benign, impact-neutral waltz with a romanticized Mother Nature, but as a range of ecosystemically violent choices, each of which exacts a cost, whether or not we are willing to acknowledge it.