Confessions of a sustainable gardener Part 1- Pest

LESSON YOUR FOOTPRINT

Confessions of a Sustainable Gardener

Part 1 – PEST

dwarf-loblolly-larvae1

BACKGROUND

With my background and interests, one would think my garden became sustainable via a well thought-out, altruistic route.  Heck, I spent years at university studying the environment obtaining 2 degrees in environmental engineer followed by 2 decades as a practicing environmental engineer.  More importantly, I am a life long gardener, learner and admirer of nature.  In reality, I became sustainable out of need and laziness.  As such, I just kind of backed into it.

PEST

It all started one day about 20 years ago when I got tired of chasing the next pest.  This is important and worth repeating – I got tired of chasing the next pest.  I went after one, then another, then another, and then the first one came back and it all started again.  It was a viscous cycle.  I no longer had the time or energy to spray or dust.  I thought, what if I just stopped all this nonsense and see what happens naturally?

There was some written about organic garden and maybe even sustainable gardening, although I don’t recall that being the term used at the time.  More was written about organic gardening, which for me, today, is just part of my sustainable whole.  But twenty years ago, I didn’t know I would go in this “sustainable” direction.  I didn’t even know what it was and I certainly didn’t have time to research it.   So, I just applied logic.  Logic told me if there were good bugs and bad bugs, then there were also checks and balances.   As such, I just stopped interfering.  I was confident nature would take care of herself, or at least that was my hope.

And she did.  My first season, there were more bugs than I care to admit; there were holes in my leaves and half eaten flowers.  Gaining courage, to rid them, I started to hand pick some of those bugs off the plant and into a jar of soapy water.  This was not the easiest thing I did that year, and I still get squeamish doing so today, even after all these years.  But I managed to rise to the occasion when the need arises.

By the next year, there were less holes and more flowers, PLUS more birds, bees and butterflies.  It was noticeably different.  This was all the encouragement I needed.  When I look back on this early pest control decision, I also had to accept a level of tolerance for less than perfect plant displays.  The plants themselves were perfectly happy; they just looked a little worse from the chewing.  But this was traded for honeybees pollinating my cucumbers, butterflies alighting my Lantana, and birds singing in the wee morning hours.

This went on for a few years.  Yet, to label myself an organic gardener was not something I was ready to embrace.  Even though this was the first step to organic gardening, I figured there had to be more to it and as such, didn’t feel I was worthy of the label.  Today, I can say with confidence, I am an organic gardener.  What I didn’t know then that I know now, was that my first steps toward organic gardening 20 years ago is all that is really needed to become an organic gardener.  Every journey begins with the first step.

Over the next couple of weeks, I will post the rest of my journey that brought me to where I am today.  I’ll enlighten you on soil, mulch, right plant in the right place, fertilizer, water-wise design, rain harvesting, fungicides, herbicides, pre-emergences, and in general, my organic gardening philosophy.

Thanks for taking this journey with me: I hope not to disappoint you.  It is my hope you too will look at your garden just a little bit differently and feel it is OK to wear the label “organic gardener.”

Until next time…

Helen Yoest
Gardening With Confidence

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18 Comments »

  1. metricula said

    What a wonderful post! I think a lot of people are afraid to trade a little bit of damage for all those wonderful benefits.

    I knew a woman who was complaining some of the plants in her yard were getting totally devoured. When I looked at them and saw it was monarch caterpillars on milkweed, she was so excited about feeding them she started planting more!

  2. keewee said

    Thank you for your post I found it to be very interesting.

  3. lzyjo said

    That’s such a nice story. I have a lot of problems with pests. Last year, though, I saw parasitic wasps in action, bringing down the dreaded tomato horn worm. Incredibly effective!

  4. Nikki Smith said

    Hi Helen,

    I stumbled across a message you sent me on Twitter. Sorry I didn’t respond sooner. I’m still learning the art of the Tweet.

    Would you like to guest blog for me again? Your first attempt was such a success, I’d be happy to have you blog anytime.

    Talk soon,
    Nikki

  5. Hey Metricula,

    I know it! I have heard countless tales of the poor misunderstood tiger swallowtail and monarch “green worms.”. That’s why it’s our job to inform. Keep up the good work!

  6. Thanks Keewee!

    Hey Lzyjo,

    I would have loved to seen that wasp in action!

  7. Hey Nikki,

    I sent you a DM over at Twitter. In case you can’t find it, I would be happy to be your guest blogger again!

  8. Reno Martin said

    We can all do better to garden with less chemicals. And you are right, it begins with a first step. That is where a 1000 mile journey begins. Lovely blog. Look forward to more.

  9. tina said

    Good job! I enjoyed the video clip too and will be looking forward to your journey.

  10. Joe Lamp'l said

    I love this post! This is how it really happens and more people need to experience what you did here. The proof comes from patience and thankfully you were willing to give it a chance.
    I’d love to have you rerun this post as a guest blogger on Compost Confidential. It really is a real-life, powerful testimonial.
    Thanks for writing about this subject.

  11. Jayme -NC said

    Keep inspiring us oh sage friend!

  12. […] CONFESSIONS OF A SUSTAINABLE GARDENER Part 1: PEST BACKGROUND With my background and interests, one would think my garden became sustainable via a well thought-out, altruistic route.  Heck, I spent years at university studying the environment obtaining 2 degrees in environmental engineer followed by 2 decades as a practicing environmental engineer.  More importantly, I am a life long Organic Gardening News […]

  13. Thank you for relating your experience in dealing with harmful pests. I have been experiencing some of these same problems and I am anxious to use some of the suggestions you make. Thanks for the helpful resource!

  14. Debbie said

    Helen,

    Your post was simple yet profound. I think many new gardeners feel there is a whole series of hoops you must jump through to begin sustainable gardening. I often tell people that I garden sustainably but only because I’m too lazy to do anything else. I don’t bother with all sorts of fertilizers and pesticides, I simply add compost to my plants each spring. I don’t plant anything that needs too much water because I don’t have an irrigation system much less the the time or interest for supplemental watering. And as you said, my garden may have a few holey leaves but the trade off of butterflies and hummingbirds is well worth it.

    I’m looking forward to reading your other posts in this series.

  15. Yes Debbie, I agree, there isn’t a whole series of hoops to go through to be an organic gardener, you just begin one day. Thank you for your comment. I think the more people realize that it is simply a matter of letting nature take her course, planting the right plant in the right place, and adding natural nurtients like mulch. Once we label something, it tends to make it seem difficult to achieve; when in reality, organic gardening is the step in the direction of the less difficult.

  16. […] Confessions of a Sustainable Gardener journey.  The order is not significant. I started with pest (Part 1 – Pest) because this was where I started my journey to become a sustainable Gardener; or rather, where I […]

  17. TC said

    Those look a whole lot like the viburnum leaf beetle larvae who recently devoured one of my arrow wood viburnums. I’m starting a lecture series on “The Good, The Bad, and The Bugly.” Which could be interpreted as “Go ahead, make my day.”

  18. […] Confessions of a Sustainable Gardener journey.  The order is not significant. I started with pest (Part 1 – Pest) because this was where I started my journey to become a sustainable Gardener; or rather, where I […]

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