They came like a plague of locusts straight out of The Bible, thousands of cucumber beetles in a massive cloud. One hot June evening a few weeks ago while Marj and I were doing our evening walk about in the garden a wave of cucumber beetles descended on our vines. Within minutes they were turning healthy seedlings into dry spider webs.
We ran out to chase them away but they could fly. What’s more, when we knocked them to the ground they burrowed. To top it off, they were tough to kill. Time and again we would roll several between our hands only to watch them fly away. It was clear that within hours every vine would be dust if we couldn’t stop them. That included pumpkins, cucumbers, squash, zucchini and melons. Then I remembered something a friend had told me about her mother having put fireplace ashes on her garden. I had always thought of that as just adding potash to the soil, but now it looked like a possible deterrant. After all, if the beetles ate the ashes they would probably die. If the ashes deterred them then the plants would be safe. Chemicals were out of the question even if there had been a store open at that time of day. Our garden has been strictly organic for the past fifteen years.
The ashes worked. We had enough to coat every vine and by morning no more than twenty beetles remained, mostly on the cucumbers and zucchini which were the only purchased seeds there. All of the other seeds had come from our own stock. Another application a few days later allowed the seedlings to grow big enough that they were no longer attractive to the beetles. A mixture of garlic and water would also have acted as a deterrant both to the beetles and to any vampires passing by but I didn’t think of that at the time.
Some people argue that organic practices only serve in the good times; that when the going gets tough we need pesticides. Not so. In fact the opposite is true. Organic gardening involves a number of different practices ranging from saving seeds through rotation, companion crops and strictly organic fertilizer and pest control. Because the pumpkins, squash and melons were grown from our seeds, they experienced very little damage from the beetles. The vines growing from purchased seeds took the longest time to recover.
What’s more, no beneficial insects were harmed in the process. The assassin bugs arrived on schedule to attack the potato bugs and the bees remained to pollinate the berries. The organic approach actually works best in the hard times because this approach incorporates the saving of seeds, balancing the soil, protecting beneficial insects and birds as coworkers, carefully managing water supplies in dry years and in wet, and encouraging companion crops to support one another. Gardens, just like communities, are looking for balance.
Gardening with your own seeds in your own creative space feeds the soul as well as the body. It gives you a continuity with the past, with the land and with the food you eat. It lends balance to your life. Canadian society has become disconnected from the pillars that sustain our lives; they are the water we drink, the food we eat, the air we breathe and the communities in which we live. In recent years the landscape has blossomed with fast food outlets of every description. Increasingly the same people that play no part in growing the food they eat also play no part in its preparation. Often the eating of this food, once considered a central part of family life is relegated to the seat of a car as people speed to their next destination. Who we are is not to be found on the highway or in Facebook. Rather it is to be seen reflected in the contributions we make within our homes and communities.
Ours is truly a unique city blessed with space, scenic beauty, an abundance of fresh water and an odd assortment of long established communities. It is also a city that has not yet lost contact with the land which makes it a rarity in this country. What’s more, as Lindsay’s 150th birthday party showed, when there is a good time to be had, people will come.
So, in the name of having a good time Toward Balance Network, The Health Unit, the city, and a number of quality restaurants are planning two special events for the fall. The first is the world record walk. Every green community across Canada will be partnering on October 3 to enter The Guiness Book of Records for a one kilometer walk. Everyone that registers and completes the walk will be part of the world record. So walk for good health, walk for the record or just walk for fun. We’re all part of the same community. Then on October 13 step out for a night of fine Kawartha cuisine. Participating restaurants will be serving farm fresh local food, the best you can get anywhere. Check it out. Maybe your favourite restaurant will be serving up the best of the Kawarthas. Or maybe you want to combine “Wingfield” at The Academy Theatre after your dinner. Either way book in advance. Enjoying the healthy lifestyle of our community has never been easier or more fun. See you next time.