Our Garden: Friends and Allies

Dragonflies: one of the "friends" in our garden
Dragonflies: one of the "friends" in our garden

Most agriculture and gardening efforts these days follow along the lines of a military operation. Waging war on pests and varmints can be a full time job if you let it. For the past few years Jane and I have worked on a better method, using the creatures that frequent our garden as a warning sign or even declaring them allies.

Part of the thinking that the garden needs to be a place where war must be waged is from the chemical warfare that most of us are taught at a young age. This is conveniently brought to us by pesticide and fertilizer companies and, unfortunately, by our own teachers.

My dad Harold was a tremendous gardener (he died just last year at 70) but he had one fault in the garden as I saw it. He depended on chemicals and store bought fertilizers to grow his garden. When I talked to him about building his soil, he pointed to various bugs that needed to be ‘controlled’.

Frankly those chemicals scared me to death; neither Jane nor I wanted any part of them. She grew up on a farm where ‘spraying’ was part of the normal cycle of farming throughout her time at home. It was not until some of the early farmers started dying in their 60’s that people in the area started to put two and two together and start suspecting the chemicals they were using.

Jane’s own father died when he was only 61, although there were other factors that contributed to his early demise.

Do you think that death might be a motivator for people not to use all of these compounds that they have no idea what they are? Are we to believe everything we are told by the media and large corporations?

If we let our own experience in this area be our guide, then the answer would have to be ‘probably not’…

Healthy Soil: the Foundation of Natural Pest Control

But what about the theory of building the soil, which seems to have been suppressed over the last few years. Is it more work? Does it take more time?

It does take some time, as with any biological process: you have to add to and nurture your soil for it to be able to give back to you. Compost, and green manures is our favorite way to do this.

Composting has gotten a lot of press lately and for good reason. We can take our kitchen wastes, grass clippings, hay and straw, and leaves and add it to our gardens to grow better food for ourselves. Take it from one area and put it where it will do the most good.

Jane and I do purchase quite a few bales of straw or hay from local farmers each year. We use it for bedding for our egg laying chickens (which ends up in the garden). It is used as mulch in the root cellar and this also ends up in the garden. We strive to use all of our garden additives more than once always with an eye to having it end up in the garden.

Thinking through your daily chores, your kitchen activities and your end goal of having better and more healthy food will have you making all of these processes more efficient.

A Rose-Breasted Grosbeak in the garden
A Rose-Breasted Grosbeak in the garden

It’s not difficult either… what will make the most positive impact with the least amount of effort and input costs on your part? That is the question we ask ourselves. Secondly, we ask, ‘Can we get double duty out of this process?’

Working with the land, instead of against it, puts many allies to work for you. Suddenly you have friendly insects controlling the pests. Birds are frequently dining on the pests too.Β They live in our environment and dine quite well on a buffet of bugs brought to them by the simple process that we employ everyday.

To learn more you can find us at our vegetable gardening site.

Want to keep synthetic chemicals out of your garden? Check out our current listings of biological pest control products, compost bins, and organic seeds in the Green Choices product comparison engine.

  1. LJ

    Great article, I completely agree. And I used to be a chemist, so I know more than most about the effects they have. I have a question about using straw in the garden – I was told they have a bit more problems with rodents and blowing away. Could you expand on that a bit? The real pros/cons? Is it suitable for someone with allergies? Also, any opinions on all the latest soil additives like Myco?

  2. Rose Silver

    I totally agree that chemicals have bad effects. My father frequently use fertilizers to his plants and this has result to his hair loss. Worms can be an alternative fertilizer for having a healthy soil. You can add worms to your composting.

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