Monday, July 11, 2011

The Organic Garden

I, like many of our customers, try to grow at least a few things in my own garden.  This year our efforts are watered down by other priorities, most noteworthy being our delivery service.  Combine our waterered down efforts with those scalliwag chipmunks who seem to take great joy in picking my not yet ripe tomatoes, taking a few bites to get to the seeds I think and then leaving the remains where they KNOW I will find them and you have what Frank from Golden Rule Farm calls an exquisite failure!  I used to think chipmunks were adorable, now I think they are scheming - they watch us with those beady little eyes, find our weaknesses and then strike. 

There are other bugs I never paid attention to before that I now love less since trying to grow things to eat: aphids, scales, mealy bugs, leaf hoppers, caterpillars and beetles.  I know they are necessary for ecological balance but could they please go provide balance elsewhere!  I don't want any, not in my garden.  And I know you can plant marigolds near your tomatoes for bugs but that doesn't stop the chipmunks - so how do you grow an organic garden and keep it going for 60, 90 or 120 days so that you reap a bumper harvest for your efforts?

You employ tactical warfare, you out-think, out-manouver and out-last, that's how!  And you employ the appetities of helpers.  Did you know that lady bugs, which you can by by the gallon (or 75'000) will eat as many as 5,000 aphids in their lifetime?  They are little bug carnivores and also eat many of the other nuisance insects that plague our patches.  Another little bug carnivore you can try is praying mantids, one egg sac contains 40'000 eggs and they will eat anything they can catch including mosquitos, wasps and beetles (and ladybugs so don't buy them together).  You can buy both insects online.

Another wonderful resource for organic gardeners who are looking at pest control is the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service website, they will help you choose the right pest control method, and if you reach the point of no return where it is too late for ladybugs, you can visit their Pest Management Database for all kinds of information, what sprays you can use, which are registered with OMRI (Organic Material Research Institute) and what the active ingredients are in each of the sprays - it is very useful, AND they include vertebrate pests like deer, squirrels, moles and field mice - (just not chipmunks)!  Since they advise garlic extract for squirrels and mice, maybe, just maybe it will work for the scheming little rascals I have living in my back yard!

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