After you’ve put in all the hard work to sow a seed, care for the plant and get it to grow, it is hard not to get devastated when you realize, some bug has nibbled on that pristine plant. It is hard not to call a war on slugs when you realize that every single leaf on your lettuce has been chewed on. It is hard not to whip out the chemicals when you see a moldy fur growing on your apples or brown spots appearing on your tomatoes. This feels not like I share my harvest, it feels like being robbed. It make a gardener sad and angry and ready to attack!
I feel you. But I challenge you, to resist the urge. Try not to do anything. Take what you can, clear out the sick, damaged plants and leave effected parts of your harvest behind. Don’t get angry over chewed on peaches and pecked spinach leaves. Let it go. I see it as a rent to nature for that beautiful place we build our garden in. It is tax that I pay, to support the existing ecosystem. In return that ecosystem provides me with the surplus it creates.
I try to take preventive measures: Planting fragrant herbs to deter slugs. Growing more sunflowers than I could ever harvest so that the birds can have half of them. Fertilizing my plants with compost and worm castings so they are strong and resistant against disease. The List goes on. But in the end I invite nature to do its part. I want to garden with nature. Not against it.
Why I don’t even fight the Late Blight
Not to intervene is sometimes nerve wracking. Every autumn, there comes the point at which the late blight takes over. Eventually I will loose buckets and buckets full of perfect tomatoes to that fungus. When I spot the first signs of late blight I take a deep breath. I mourn the end of the sweet, sweet tomato season and I take out the diseased plants. This gives me two or three more weeks in which I will be able to fill my harvest baskets once again but the loss is inevitable. The blight is going to win. After those last couple of weeks it normally has caught up and infected more or less all plants. And that’s ok.
I could start throwing chemicals at my tomatoes. But the prize would be to loose my main goal: Harvesting food that is completely free of fungicides, pesticides or artificial fertilizer. And even so called ecological solutions would result in a temporary harvest stop. That is because it takes at least a couple of weeks until the active ingredient is broken down. Besides that I would also need to stop harvesting all the herbs and lettuce I densely planted underneath my tomatoes. Not to mention all the unseen or even unknown effects those chemicals have on the existing ecosystem.
So my decision is not to use any chemical aid. Rather I share my harvest with it. I take precautions and I care for my plants the best I can. I try to coexist with nature, and ideally to work together with in in harmony. To fight it is not an option to me.
See yourself as a small part of a complex ecosystem
Although we sometimes cant see it, I strongly believe that every being has its purpose. The birds that eat my sunflowers fertilize the soil and spread seeds. The slugs are food to the hedgehog that lives next to the shed and keeps the bugs at bay. Even an aggressive fungus has a function. It will break down the plant is grows on and will make its nutrients available for new growth next year. And one can be sure that it only takes out plants that have been weak anyway.
For sure, I had my share. The summer rewarded my work in the garden with baskets and baskets full of delicious food. And I am happy to leave the rest to the wild things that have been here before me and will be here after I’m long gone. Hopefully I’ll leave this place richer in life and diversity than it has been before.
So please keep on gardening and don’t give up when you end up empty handed! You just have been very generous and gave all your harvest to beings that needed it more than you. Thank you for that!