One for the mouse, one for the crow, one to rot and one to grow


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I saw this comment on Reddit and I found it really thought provoking. It was posted in reply to a discussion about the proportion of plants that survive in a garden. It's a really interesting read:

The funny thing is, that's actually the healthy way to plant. Gardening rant - engage.

We think we need to obtain every single yield on our land - all for us and only us. The problem is that we depend on nature and the entire ecosystem to cycle water, nutrients, etc. If you looked at a 10 foot x 10 foot plot of land with a human on it, maybe a quadrillionth of 1 percent of the living mass on that plot is human (exaggeration alert - do not take literally). So why should the human get 100% of the yield? Hell, our bodies are only 43% human by cell count. The other 57% is symbiotic microbiology that lives inside us.

I think having a paradigm shift in your thinking is very important to having a healthy sustainable garden (i.e. ecosystem). We tend to think very "industrial agriculture" in our backyard plots. Industrial agriculture is rife with problems.

For example, aphids take a tomato plant down? Awesome.

What?

Yes, awesome. Leave them.

Why?

If you remove them, you remove the food for the ladybugs. How do you expect to ever have ladybugs if you systematically remove their food source? Isn't that kind of exactly what you would do if your mastermind plan was to sabotage them? Remove their food?

We need to think "okay, that weak-ass tomato plant is getting donated to the aphids". They are the lions attacking the weak gazelle.

But then I will have aphids everywhere?!!

No, you won't, and here's why.

If you remove the pests, you will have more pests. If you don't remove them, you will have fewer (provided they have a natural predator of course (screw you, Japanese beetle)).

If you remove the pest, good job. You just removed all the ladybug food. You are telling nature "I've got this. I'm the ladybug". Guess what happens? They already laid eggs, so you removed one generation of aphids. Next spring the next ones hatch and you have no predators, because YOU are the predator. So now you have aphids everywhere again. You remove them again. Next spring, the next generation hatches, you have aphids everywhere again.

Now, what if we have a paradigm shift in our thinking? Lets LEAVE them. Lets donate that plant to them - for the price of a healthy ecosystem.

Aphids cover that plant and threaten a few others. Ladybugs move in, because all your neighbours remove their aphids. Your land is the only foodsource for them all around. They see this ample aphid fiesta, and they lay eggs in your soil for their children to grow up on this "fertile oasis". You remove some of, but not all of the aphid infected plants.

The next spring, overwintered aphids hatch, but this time, they are met by the next generation of ladybugs who also hatched - who solve the problem before it gets out of control. Sure you will see some aphids here and there. They will take down a few leaves on a plant. You may see a string of them crawling up the weakest tomato plant. But this is needed if you want balance. Balance doesn't mean eradication, it means balance. The price is one weak tomato plant. The benefit is an in-situ 24/7 garden security force.

We need to stop thinking we have ownership of every plant on our property. We need to be okay losing one or two, if it means we create a healthy ecosystem. Then we overplant to compensate for this. We plant in dense polycultures. We plant some wildflower patches. We plant borders of perennial kale and clover for the rabbits so they don't eat our lettuce. Here it is in action. When we do this, we get the benefit from them (their fertility they leave behind), but we don't lose our prize crops. We put in bird baths so they don't drill holes in our tomatoes looking for water. They now instead drink from the bird bath, and the benefit for that small price is that they are now an enchanced garden security team. The SWAT team. They know we are their friend, and they now land on our hands, and follow us around as we putter around the garden. They can sense we aren't adversarial, we are one of them. Part of the ecoystem.

We leave a wasp nest up if it's not in our direct walking path. Suddenly we find ourselves changing. We see a wasp and last year we thought "stupid wasps, I hate wasps so much", but now we find our enlightened selfs thinking:

"hello garden buddy. You are an asshole, but you are an indescriminant asshole. You are equally assholish to all things, including all my enemies. The enemy of my enemy is my friend. Hello friend".

(forgive the profanity, but this IS a rant after all).

Look at you, you are evolving infront of our very eyes.

As soon as we stop treating our home garden like a capitalistic profit and greed-driven corporation, frothing at the mouth to maximize every single penny, steal from everyone and give back to nobody, take take take, kill this, kill that, eradicate this, grow in a dead sterile environment where all competition is stomped under our boot.... nature just doesn't work like that. And when we plant like that, we have systems requiring constant inputs. When we destroy something (say herbicide, pesticide, etc), then WE have to replace the function that those performed in the ecosystem. Or stuff dies.

When we kill things, we create systems of inputs. Home depot won't mind selling you remedy after remedy for all the stuff you are killing and all the imbalance you are causing.

Long rant, this is my passion - clearly. So ask yourself...

What's worse? Losing a tomato plant here and there, but growing in a zero maintenance wild gardening permaculture ecosystem sustainable method? Or spending hundreds of dollars and growing that single $200 tomato that makes you quit gardening because it's "so hard".

It's not hard. We just make it hard.

Check out my channel in Canada. Check out Edible Acres channel, New York. Check out Collette at Bealtraine Cottage, Ireland. Do we look like we are struggling? No, because we invite nature in!

We just need to realize, we're the small fry here. We're insignificant in the grandeur of nature and natural ecosystems. We need to sow our seeds, sow enough for everyone, leave some for nature, and harvest our modest share of it. But then we need to step back and remove ourselves from the equation and let nature sort it out.

That $200 tomato just became a free tomato, because you saved seeds. You aren't buying 10-10-10 fertilizer. You aren't spraying pesticide and neem oil. You aren't spend spend spend, input input input. You are composting, and mulching, and saving seeds. That's it.

You know what else? You aren't hate hate hate. You see aphids, but you no longer see "AH PESTS!", you see "ahh... free ladybug food". You are no longer having a high stress, negativity breeding adversarial relationship with nature. You are a mother fking hobbit. You are unshakable. You are at peace. You are serenity embodied.

Gardening now is saving and making you money, it's saving and feeding the ecosystem you live in. You are now a net positive force in the world, you are the sower of food, the bringer of life, you have risen and evolved. You are no longer the bringer of death.

You just need to take that one small step in realizing... this isn't all yours.

I'm still relatively new to gardening, and I have certainly learned a lot over the past few years (largely thanks to the awesome members here!). I really like this way of thinking though; if you fight against nature you'll always be fighting, so better to work with it.

It just got me thinking and I was curious to see what everyone else here thinks about it :)
 
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I agree, to a point, with the above. The author, IMO, is too simplistic. Sure, a few aphids is no big deal and if some ladybugs show up and eat them, that's great. But, what if the ladybugs don't show up and every tomato plant in the garden becomes infested by hundreds of them. Do you just say to yourself, oh well I just saved a bunch of ladybugs by not spraying with soapy water. If you do then why garden at all? A gardener should strive to understand the how's and why's of pest management. If I see a harmful insect flying around in my garden I don't race to the shed to get my sprayer, but, I do remember that I saw the miscreant. If I start to see more and more of them I know something is out of sync and I try to fix it. Spraying is the last resort but spraying I will do if I can't control the problem any other way. A healthy vigorous plant seldom is attacked and severely damaged by an insect. Caterpillars however are a different story altogether. These days most chemical pesticides are overkill and are effective for too long. They end up killing more beneficials than the target insect which is one of the main reasons I use only organics.
 
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You make some very good points, @Chuck :) I agree that their view is very idealistic - there's the assumption that the natural predators will be there, and in many instances that may not be the case. Still interesting to think about though!
 

zigs

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Some good points there, and from Chuck too :)

I don't use pesticides, only spray I use is Bordeaux mix against the blight.

I get some damage, but mostly it balances itself out. I had a salsify plant that used to get covered in aphids, I left it thinking that if the aphids were on that, they wouldn't be on something else :)
 
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"......What's worse? Losing a tomato plant here and there, but growing in a zero maintenance wild gardening permaculture ecosystem sustainable method? Or spending hundreds of dollars and growing that single $200 tomato that makes you quit gardening because it's "so hard".

It's not hard. We just make it hard........."

A GREAT, thought provoking read, indeed, Becky. In a nutshell.....there's ALWAYS "more than one way to skin a cat".
 

Meadowlark

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Some good points in that post...but I'm always suspicious about anyone telling me "having a paradigm shift in your thinking is very important".
 
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I'm Likening the Post. I Really do enjoy Nature in the garden. I get as much fun from watching ladybirds, Butterfly's & Birds as I do from my plants. I Also like to Pick the odd plant for my Kitchen But Like that to come from as Natural as possible an environment Even if it is a Semi Manicured Space, I see Know reason why Nature Canot come in too Without the risk of Poison in the food Chain . So If I see Snails the most I will do is Move them from the Said plant but leave for the Hedgehogs & thrushes. If its that Precious, I will if possible move to a new snail free location. Aphids I just leave for ladybirds that live in my garden in the Trillian. Why fight nature?............... Its such a wonderful thing . Man has nothing on it & to me It starts in the Garden. If we can get That right then Maybe the Bigger unspoilt Places in the world Could Have a Chance Too . So I'm Chemical free. They have no uses in my garden & don't need to save a space for them any time soon (y)
 
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A thought provoking read, thank you for posting it.
The timing is interesting too - only recently on a radio programme someone mentioned all those flies which used to hit the windscreen of the car when you were driving and asked the question: where have they all gone? It went on to suggest that it could be due to the chemicals used for intense farming these days. Then I had to switch off to go into work and missed the rest of the debate, but it would seem to have been along the same lines as your article.
 

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