Friday, June 1, 2012

Garden Blogging, first of June . . . 

Man . . . who seem’d so fair, 
Such splendid purpose in his eyes,       
Who roll’d the psalm to wintry skies,
Who built him fanes of fruitless prayer, 
Who trusted God was love indeed       
And love Creation’s final law—       

Tho’ Nature, red in tooth and claw
With ravine, shriek’d against his creed—
(Tennyson, In Memoriam)

For me, there are many, many reasons to garden without pesticides and synthetic fertilizers, not least of which are the chemicals that I don't care to ingest and the corporations who make and market the stuff.  Gardening organically also calls for certain kinds of attention and knowledge and attitude that I find interesting and appealing.  You have to pay attention to what's going on down there or your plants can quickly end up devoured by your competitors.  It may happen anyhow, and such is life.

But I have to admit that I take a kind of bloodthirsty pleasure in the carnage that takes place in the garden. Spiders spin their traps or stalk their prey; wasps of every size and temperament patrol constantly; harvestmen pick their way slowly through the foliage; dragonflies careen through the airspace.  Catbirds, phoebes, chipping sparrows, wrens, swoop down to snatch the caterpillars.  I go out and I do what I can to help.  Right now I'm picking off the tortoise beetles and killing the cucumber beetles - and I'll do more of the same once their larvae hatch.  I'll put out beer for the voracious slugs.  But I like the fact that any leaf-muncher has to navigate a nightmarish scene of predation and danger - and the same goes on underground out of sight.

When we use pesticides we can devastate the munchers, and there's a clear, momentary satisfaction to that.  But we also devastate all these predators.  And it is a truism of nature that prey always reproduce faster and more nimbly than their predators do.  Gardeners who rely on chemical warfare and who destroy these allies, fall into a trap.  If they let up on the chemicals, the munchers can invade in vast numbers, without any natural enemies.  Waiting for the predators to re-establish themselves can mean a whole crop lost.  So I look with pleasure and satisfaction at my active, murderous allies among the leaves of the garden.  

Now if I can just train the cats to murder the voles but leave the toads and garter snakes in peace I could consider them on board as well.