a journal of our edible education

pests

Pest Management

In our garden the subject of pesticide is raised most often by adults and rarely if ever by students.  Perhaps adults are more battle weary than their children in the war on bugs and are sooner ready to go for the nuclear option.  Pests are an inevitable fact of life for anyone who tries to grow food.  Let’s face it, you are not the only one eyeing those cabbages out there.  If you grow something delicious you’re going to have competition, but just as in so much of life, management turns out to be more pragmatic than control.  Control is the fantasy.  Management is the daily grind.  Very few problems are truly eradicated and we  often  learn to work “with” rather than work “against”.  (sometimes this takes a long time to learn) When it comes to pests, the food garden has chosen the management route and adopted a no synthetic pesticide policy.  Along with giving up on chemical poisons we have given up the idea of a pest free garden.  Some of our produce will be blemished.  Some of it will disappear, but in the long run we will find more than we lose.  It turns out that nearly every pest that wants to eat our crops has some other critter that wants to eat it.  Watching this drama play out in the garden is pretty fascinating and assembling the cast is our only responsibility.  If you’re going to have aphids (and you will), you’re going to want to invite some lady bugs. If you’re going to have earwigs or beetles you’ll want to have some lizards like this one on hand.

Students finding a baby lizard and its unhatched cousin (yes it’s a lizard egg) will obviously bring planting or any other garden task to a halt.  The discovery of ants, aphids, grubs, worms, beetles, snakes, grasshoppers, baby birds etc. is one reason gardening takes so long.  It’s tempting to see these discoveries of life as distractions but they are not.  They are one more lesson to be learned.  One more thing to be questioned.  If we use poison in the garden how far does it go?  How many poisoned insects can this lizard eat before it will get sick and die?  How many of these sickened lizards can be eaten by a mockingbird before that mokingbird gets sick?  How does what we do impact the world around us? These are not always easy questions with easy answers.  Gardening can get complicated and learning to work “with” can be hard.  Growing a garden that is inviting to predators like this lizard takes knowledge, planning, work and sometimes compromise but the payoff is suprisingly effective.  This baby lizard is hungry and it will spend everyday of its life looking to eat something in our garden… and I don’t think he likes cabbage.