Friday, January 4, 2013

Learning From The Garden

Do you know what I love most about
getting seed catalogs in the mail in December?



The verified fact that it is never 
too early to start planning.




Early on in my gardening years,  being a single mom with 5 young children at home, a plethora of barnyard animals and a full-time day job to boot, every minute of my time was accounted for and precious.  Although my retired neighbor and I both had acreages, our houses and gardens nearly abutted each other.  It was virtually impossible to step outside to work in the garden without him spotting me and coming over to the fence to talk (and talk, and talk, and talk).  Although I loved him dearly (God rest his soul) and learned quite a lot from him, and was the recipient of not only his garden extras, but on more than one occasion, an unwanted triplet lamb,  my heart sang when the cornstalks grew tall enough that I could hide behind them and work unnoticed in the garden.

It was in these formative years of gardening, in Wyoming, that I learned the most.  Melons will cross-pollinate when planted too close together.  Don’t wash the potatoes after you dig them – dirty is how they are stored.  Don’t water the garden with a sprinkler unless you like weeding.  Irrigation water contains weed seeds.  Don’t plant things you don’t like eating.  Don’t plant more carrots than you want to scrub.  And – don’t judge your neighbor.

The last statement merits further comment, because it is not only something I learned early on, but am challenged by it again and again each year and in every state I have lived in. The lesson comes in the form of a small white butterfly that visits my garden and deposits larva in the form of a cabbage worm on all my cabbage plants, every year.  These voracious worms can and will destroy every cabbage plant (or any brassicas) if left to it.  Their tenacity in unequivocal to any garden pest I have ever encountered.  Every year I run for the books and the internet searching for some “natural” way of getting rid of these worms and protecting my precious plants. And every year these remedies fail. And every year I go to the store and buy a product that works. 

Why I do this remains to be rationally answered.  It goes against everything I believe in.  I won’t even open the container or apply the dusting of powder without a glove on – lest it be absorbed by my skin.  Although I am careful to apply upwind from the plant, I still hold my breath – lest I breathe it in.  I watch carefully anywhere the breeze might have taken the dust that wasn’t intended and make a mental note to spray the plants around the cabbages down next time I water.  I can’t block out of my mind that the dust will be on the ground and then in the ground.  If anyone were to come upon me in the garden while applying this chemical, I am sure I would jump out of my skin – due to my guilty conscience.

So why do I do it?  Because I want cabbage and because I can’t win any other way.

As I stand there in my little garden, with my little cabbages and my small container of pesticide, I shame myself for judging my neighboring farmers who farm thousands of acres of corn and soybeans also apply pesticides.  Who am I to ever condemn the actions of someone who stands to lose his livelihood, while I stand to lose nothing really.

This year I will again plant cabbages and this year I may try putting nylon stockings over their little heads if they make it that far. 
I hope to find a better way and I hope someday we all do.
 
.

18 comments:

TexWisGirl said...

i just love your gardening guilt. :)

Buttons said...

Wow I really like some of those tips I washed my potatoes and they did not last I thought it was me. Well I guess it was me technically by taking the dirt off.
I never had any luck growing cabbages either but I do hope you figure it out. I love cabbage. You are going to figure something out I have no doubt.It is very easy to judge others when we have not walked in their shoes we all do that in all aspects of our lives unfortunately. Great post Michaele. B

Marcia said...

Great post! I'm so looking forward to outside gardening also. I do get minor fix in the winter from the greenhouse :) This year I tried diatomaceous earth on my cabbage families and could tell a difference - had to be right on it though and keep it up after every watering or rain shower (which were pretty non existent here)

MTWaggin said...

I adore this post. I want to know how the pantyhose work and PICTURES! We too had this amazing garden when I was little and the man just over the fence - single, older than the hills had an amazing garden - Frank was his name and I'll never forget him. I to this day have a two pronged hoe that was handed down to my Mom from him! :)

Happier Than a Pig in Mud said...

Yep, I use the dust too, it's the only thing that really works. I don't feel as much guilt though:@)

Mary Ann said...

I'm a dust user in past years... and I'll fight any stink bugs I see this year! I don't blame you a bit!

Coloring Outside the Lines said...

I had the same sort of problem with tomatoes. The worms won. I no longer grow tomatoes!

Jacquelineand.... said...

Gardening guilt; I suspect we all feel it from time to time. Not judging others is a good idea; it takes up so much energy that can be used more productively.

I've been happily planning what I'll be doing in my garden this year!

Jill said...

Sometimes, a girl just has to do what a girl has to do.

Randy said...

I agree with Jill. I can't wait to see your garden.

Chatty Crone said...

How nice I think it is to have a neighbor to give you all that great advice - a easy way to learn.

Annette Mickelson said...

I enjoyed this post and learning more about you. I have never been successful with cabbage, and Brett dislikes it, so I quit trying.

Gail said...

If you grate the cole slaw quickly, you won't notice the worms.

Nancy J said...

Michaele, the only way we avoid the white butterfly is to grow cabbage, cauliflower, later, almost into autumn, This year we have had brocolli and cauli with no caterpillars at all, so maybe just plain lucky. Catalogs, great reading. Cheers from Jean

Candy C. said...

Yes, we can only hope to find a way around all the pesticides in big agriculture and in our own little gardens.
I have horrible luck with brassicas but not because of cabbage worms, my problem is aphids, TONS of aphids. I think they now live in the soil. :(

Sandra said...

my dad grew everything we ate, we only bought flour and sugar and rice, things like that. he fault off the birds and squirrels and caterpillars and sprinkled the whole garden with sevin dust, he just used his hands to sprinkle it on the garden. my thought is, if you by cabbage it has chemicals on it, so it is better to put your own chemicals and you know which one is on there.

Lisa @ Two Bears Farm said...

Last year none of my more natural methods worked on squash bugs. So I ended up with no zucchini, squash, cucumbers :-( This year I'd be willing to use a pesticide if it comes to that. I missed the squash so bad!

Sharon Creech said...

This is why I love blogs . . . you hear the details of other lives; you learn so much. xx