Monday, September 28, 2009

The Impossible Dream - a perfect garden...Sept. 28, 2009

I had the amusingly naive impression that if I grew my veggies in organic raised beds, fed them the perfect organic foods, watered exactly as needed, kept them weeded, etc. that I would have the perfect garden - beautiful, healthy, disease and pest free plants producing beautiful, blemish free fruits and veggies for our enjoyment and health, like the mustard greens and pak choi at the end of the raised bed to the left.


Like everything else in nature, there is no such thing as our concept of *perfection*. Living things, by definition, are volatile and nature always has a new curveball to throw. As a gardener you have to learn to accept the good and the bad. This season has certainly given me, as well as it seems most gardeners across the nation, plenty of good and bad. I have sympathized with the northeastern gardeners who watched their tomatoes fall victim to late blight and the Texan gardeners watching their plants blister in the heat and drought. By those standards my year has been pretty normal, despite the excess rain this spring and the lack of rain this summer.

Like most trials in life, we survive the garden disasters and hopefully learn a little wisdom from them. The tomato yellow leaf curl virus which struck most of my tomatoes early in the summer taught me to check any plant I buy and bring home for pests and signs of disease. The early blight which slowly ascended my later tomatoes has taught me the value of bottom watering, composting and mulching. Today I learned a lesson about cabbage worms.... that assumptions can still lead us in the wrong direction!
My collards, cole crops and other fall veggies have been growing well - though I had begun in the past few days to see some leaf damage. Since we have bunnies galore in our National Wildlife Certified Refuge back natural area, and I have seen the rabbits near the beds, I assumed the rabbits were the guilty ones munching on my baby veggies. However, after a close inspection and some reading I found smaller, less cute vandals - cabbage worms! The little devils were the exact color of the leaves - only an inch or so long, it was amazing the damage they had already done. Five of them met their maker while I was examining the plants, and I sprayed late afternoon with Bt mixed according to directions and with a teaspoon of liquid soap added to try to make it adhere better to the waxy leaves of the collards, brussels sprouts and broccoli. Though I would prefer not to have to use anything, when I have to, I use organically approved (OMRI) substances that hopefully will target only the destructive pests and leave the beneficial insects alone.

Hopefully now the rest of the fall garden will prosper, but I will remain alert.... Homeland Security at its most basic :-)

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