Nobody appreciates dangerous chemicals like an organic gardener.
People who regularly use the standard issue herbicides, insecticides and fungicides don’t know what it’s like to have squash borers evicerate every single zucchini and crookneck plant in their garden. They don’t know how if feels to see a beautiful heirloom Costata Romanesco plant that bore 20 pounds of fruit (and could have easily borne 20 more) simply turn brown and mushy over a single night.
They’ve likely not had the pleasure of watching downy mildew burn every last cucumber leaf as their potential pickles shrivel and yellow.And I’m sure they’ve not lost many tomato plants or tomatoes to fruitworms, cutworms or caterpillars.
After Kimberly and I spent hours spraying neem oil, squashing squash bugs (named for what you’re supposed to do with them, right?) and performing surgery to remove borers; we still lost 8 of our 10 summer squash plants.
After spraying a milk and baking soda solution on the top and bottom of EVERY leaf on all our cucumber, watermelon and cantaloupe plants; I’m still not sure we’ll beat the mildew.
Part of me would thoroughly enjoy sprinkling granular insecticide over our crops. I’d cackle as I watched the bugs munch, scream and fall to the ground.
That same part of me would love to spray a heavy dose of herbicide on the grass growing in our garden. I’d check every hour as the green blades turned brown and died. Then I’d wring my hands with pleasure.
And to top off our chemical cocktail: a dose of fungicide to kill the mildew spores and restore our curcurbits’ deep green leaves.
This chemical vengance could be so easy, and so satisfying. It would also be so dangerous for us and our guests. I just can’t do it. If we did that, we might as well sprinkle that crap all over the plates of food we serve.
But when a single, tiny squash-boring grub greedily claims an entire, prolific zucchini plant for itself by obliterating the plant’s roots and stem…I see red. I had no idea there was an insect that was such an a-hole.And as the weather grows hotter, I resent even more how much time it takes to combat the greedy pests and devastaing diseases in our garden.
Fortunately, our understanding grows with every garden we plant. Some things work, some don’t. And every season we know how to make things a tiny bit easier and a tiny bit simpler.
And despite all the obstacles—minor or otherwise—we’ve enjoyed eating and sharing some amazing produce.
When our guests sit down at our table to eat, I’m not thinking about our gardening woes. I’m feelng great pride in knowing all the things we haven’tsprayed, sprinkled or spread on our fruit and vegetables.
And I’m positive that the awareness of how much work it took to produce our produce makes every bite taste even better.
Often, after a delicious meal with our homegrown, organic ingredients, I like to lean back in my chair and close my eyes. I imagine I’m in a Sherman tank, blasting screaming garden bugs and grubs with napalmy missle-bombs of flaming nuclear waste. I’m shaking my fist in the air, screaming “You bug bastards will rue the day you landed in our garden!”
The garden is engulfed in flames as thick columns of black smoke fill the sky above our farm. On the tiny bug faces: horror and agony. On their stinky bug lips: “Indeed! We rue that day!”
A boy can dream, can’t he? And hey, nobody said my fantasies had to be organic.