Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Tropical South
July, 2004
Regional Report

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I don't mind sharing my garden with a few butterfly larvae.

Common Sense Gardening

When we had a greenhouse, we used the poison sprays, powders, and fumigator bombs that I had learned about in college. We found out the only thing they almost killed was our children. The bugs just got stronger on the stuff.

Then our Uncle Joe sent us Organic Gardening magazine. It seemed very far out at first, but it didn't take us long to turn our thinking around. We decided we'd rather eat vegetables with a few worm holes we could see than with a covering of poisons that we couldn't. We also found that it was must easier and more rewarding to work with Mother Nature than against her.

Improve the Soil and Mulch to the Max
Later I read Ruth Stout's wonderful books and began mulching seriously. This makes plants so much healthier that the bugs seldom bother them. Insects are nature's way of cleaning up stressed plants. I keep a bucket on the sink and recycle all the cooking water and vegetable peels back to the compost pile or the garden. Years ago I buried a bucket full and came back two weeks later to find the soil loose and friable, moister, and boasting more earthworms -- some of a gardener's best helpers. The earthworms under an acre of soil can produce more fertilizer than a herd of cows grazing above. And you don't have to buy or feed the earthworms. Just spread mulch and they will come.

We also recycle leaves, grass clippings, pine needles, and newspaper as a base layer under the more attractive mulch. I am the neighborhood bag lady and bring home much mulch left out on trash day. Read my books for the least embarrassing methods.

Treat the Planet Kindly
With insects, it is best to wait and watch closely until you have a problem and then treat it before it becomes an infestation. My first line of defense is a strong spray with water from the hose as often as once a day or, at least three or four times a week. This washes off both insect eggs and disease spores. If bugs keep eating, add liquid soap to the water. Or garlic juice. Diseases sometimes take some preventative action. A little mouthwash in the mix will help. Planting the most disease-resistant varieties of plants will help.

There are more and more safe products for insect control. Anything with Bacillus thuringiensis will kill only caterpillars. Or course, it will also kill those that would have hatched into beautiful butterflies. Most of the time, Mother Nature will send a natural enemy, and if you don't kill them off, you'll find your garden has no more bugs than it needs. After all, most of them are either harmless or actually beneficial.

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