Why Garden Naturally?
by Don Trotter
Before You Compost
The Organic Gardener's Toolkit
Hello fellow Earthlings, and welcome to a treatise on why. The question begs to be answered and there are dozens of reasons to play in the garden without synthetic pesticides or chemical fertilizers. Some reasons may seem rather cliche (and they are), but are no less valid than many of the thoughtful motivations for tending to our gardens naturally. Let's take a few paragraphs in this monologue to see what your reason for going natural are.
- I just don't like the idea of being exposed to chemicals that are potentially hazardous. This is a good and valid rationalization for not using synthetic materials in the garden. It sounds a little like becoming a vegetarian for humanitarian purposes (but they love the leather couch in their living room or their latest pair of Via Spiga leather pumps) and is a bit over used, but there are few intelligent humans that will voluntarily expose themselves, their children, and their pets to potentially hazardous chemicals if given the option of using materials that work and don't poison their personal environments.
- My health is too important to me and modern garden chemicals are scary. This reason is a tad on the heavy-handed side but certainly is a valid motivation for natural and organic gardening. We do, however live in a world and certainly in a country where chemical pollutants have infiltrated just about every place we go. I'm not sure moving to some off-world colony will help to shift the paradigm of convenience over common sense and expedience over natural resources. Chemically sensitive individuals with allergies can use this one without me rolling my eyes in being bathed with the obvious, but I also think that chemical pesticide bottles are some of the scariest reading on the planet.
- I grow mostly food crops like fruit and vegetables, and pesticide residues are a concern for me. Oh really! And who of use would gladly ingest pesticide residues. This one is probably the most often used excuse for going organic. I respect this motivation, but it is too often used and is so bloody obvious that it has lost meaning for me. I eat organic because I grow organic…that's it. The food I grow has no residues other than morning dews.
- I am concerned about the quality of our fresh water and marine ecosystems and do not wish to add to the problem from my yard. Bingo! Right on the nose baby. One of my primary motivations for not using all of the products of synthetic origin is that there are consequences for the local and regional environment. No chemical pesticide or synthetic plant food is good for the soil or the indigenous biology of any area and chemical runoff is one of the major issues facing our cities in the very near future. No two-headed frogs or moss covered reefs from my property uncle Skippy. We wonder why the "killer algae" in Fox's lagoon is out of control once again. Look in your garage for that bag of 16-6-8 or triple-15 lawn food as the residential contribution to this little dilemma.
- I think that using all of the resources of nature makes for a more balanced system. I treat my garden as an ecosystem unto itself. This is my reason. I can never get enough of watching how the myriad organisms from the microscopic to a coyote eating the rabbits that eat my eggplant work their stuff. This fascination has been with me my whole life and I'm still giddy about the whole thing. Witnessing the utter decimation of an aphid population by foraging predatory insects just blows my skirt up Marilyn. I have come to appreciate and really enjoy nature's thoroughness and brutality when it comes to cleaning up pest populations on my farm and on the properties of those who also follow a natural path to gardening success. I subscribe to this philosophy because I'm a naturalist, but mostly because I really get a kick out of how sadistic nature can be to those organisms that would eat my roses or suck the life out of my citrus trees. This is gratification on a personal scale, yet it can work anywhere that is free of chemical toxins.
These are just a few of the many rationales given for gardening without chemistry. And I, for one, have heard numerous others that are just too trite and comfortable to share without insulting your intelligence. The new age is no longer new, and has become a rather rusty ideology. I like reasons that promote biological diversity and/ or common sense. Let's garden together this way and take some time to watch the lacewing or ladybug larva eat a stem full of aphids. Enjoy that, preach the Yin and Yang or the Celestine Prophecy of that. Nature has never been a serene thing. It is a buzz with tensions between prey and predator. Let them work, and keep the synthetics for polythene Pam or the Miracle Grow zombies. We know better and we have to get back to our gardens. See you there!
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