Most of our Growing Warriors families have young children – and will have children in their gardens . . . and often our conversations turn to discussing how gardens impact families – and how having young children impacts the gardening we will be doing. Last Monday’s class was no exception. The topic was Organic Gardening.
Mark Walden led a discussion about the differences between organic and conventional methods and where organic fertilizers and pesticides are sourced. When we started meeting in January, two of our families were expecting babies this growing season – and now we’ve added a third. So, it was with an increased thoughtfulness that the conversation turned to how pesticides work – interrupting nervous system pathways (which are the same in humans and insects), altering hormone paths, eliminating the reproductive ability of insects and the plants we call weeds. . . .
The second way our conversation turned was to the Good Ol’ Days – when no one talked of integrated pest management because that was all they had. With chickens and ducks to eat pests and make fertilizer, pigs to plow and work up tree stumps, other animals weed-eating and composting, and crop rotation and season extension a necessary part of feeding your family, the system was work, but could handle a lot of pests without other intervention. We acknowledged that without livestock, producing enough compost for a backyard garden is a nearly impossible task, and can we trust our sources of manure, lawn clippings, and leaves to be free from antibiotics and persistent herbicides? To be fair, the Good Ol’ Days had their fair share of mistakes – most folks don’t think too much of putting arsenic on their fields any more, for instance.
With everyone coming from different places in the organic vs. conventional discussion, the general consensus was that we can gain the most and lose the least by imitating nature and natural processes. We can use companion planting, hoe weeds, and hand-pick pests. We can compost, supplement with organically-sourced materials, and use row cover. We can encourage diversity of life in the soil and the interactions of living organisms from bacteria and fungi to tomatoes and butterflies. While on the topic of what nature is capable, I had intended to post this blog last Tuesday – the day after our Monday night discussion, but Tuesday morning we welcomed a happy, naturally-grown baby boy. Not this summer, but next, he will join his sister and brother eating tomatoes from our garden.