Why Are We Fighting Mother Nature?

March 2, 2014 lawanda Newspaper Columns

            Gardeners have many reasons for pursuing their hobby – exercise, relaxation, spending time outdoors, creativity and beauty, or growing healthy, fresh food.  These are all admirable motives for pursuit of a worthwhile pastime.  Gardening should be a lovely, relaxing activity.  So why do we sometimes make it so much work? 

Why do we try so hard to eliminate every every weed in the lawn, flowerbed and vegetable garden?  Why must our tomatoes be the earliest, the biggest?  Why must flowers be lined up in perfect rows?  Is that all necessary? 

            Are we fighting a war?  Pesticides have strong, aggressive names like Killex, Assail, Assault, Shootout, Intrepid, Ambush and Prevail.  Should those names, and the dangerous chemicals behind them have any place in a peaceful activity?

            When I started gardening many years ago, I tried to make everything perfect:  straight rows of vegetables and flowers, no weeds, no creepy-crawlies.  I spent a lot of time trying to kill off every bug that crawled into my garden and removing every weed.  It was a lot of work and very stressful, wondering what was going to attack next and then trying to figure out what kind of poison I should buy to get rid of it.

            Today, I don’t use any synthetic pesticides or fertilizers.  What a relief not to have to even walk down that row at the store that always gave me a headache anyway!  As soon as I eliminated the chemicals from my garden, things got a lot easier, much more relaxing and a whole lot more fun.  Amazingly, I immediately had fewer pest problems.  It’s been years since I had a scary outbreak of any kind of pest that I was afraid would ruin a whole crop.

            What’s the secret?  I am working with Mother Nature rather than fighting her.  In the vegetable garden, there are shorter rows or patches of vegetables going in various directions, interspersed with several kinds of flowers.  This diversity confuses insect pests so they don’t spot a whole area of any one thing and call in their buddies for a field day. 

            I place compost in planting holes and rows.  Flowerbeds are mulched with wood chips.  In the vegetable garden, I use straw mulch between rows.  When I pull weeds, I let them decompose in place to nourish the soil.  The mulch means that less watering is necessary and that soil temperature doesn’t fluctuate widely.  The compost provides nutrition at a slow, steady rate, making for strong, sturdy plants.  It helps the soil hold water when rainfall is short, yet helps it drain better when it rains too much.

            Outside the vegetable garden, native plants require less water and fertilizer than non-native species.  I also keep in mind a plant’s requirements for optimal growth.  Sun-loving plants go in the sun and shade-loving plants go in the shade.  If a plant needs more water, or sandy soil, or more acidic soil than I can provide, I look for an alternate plant.

            It just doesn’t need to be that hard!

Gardening techniques and toolsOrganic gardening

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