Last night it finally rained and the garden loved it. At almost 2 cm. it was the biggest rain since April 4, and the only one of substance in 6 weeks. That’s a long time between drinks. This summer has taught us more about gardening than we have learned in all of the easy years combined.
For starters, we have come to appreciate the value of diversity. Green beans did really well while yellow beans that tend to develop a couple of weeks later did poorly. By the time the yellow beans reached the critical flowering stage we were already well into the scorching drought of June. Carrots loved the drought while peas curled up and died. Best of all, our midsummer second planting of peas and beans looks very fresh today. We have peas forming and beans in flower which holds promise for fall vegetables and next year’s seed, a practice we picked up from Grandma.
We also had the value of Grandma’s stories reinforced when the cucumber beetles struck our vines. Thousands of them descended on our pumpkins, squash, cucumbers, zucchini and melons one evening. We had never before experienced such an attack but Grandma had. She had beaten them back fireplace ashes, so that’s what we used. The next morning most of the beetles were gone. The rest we were able to manage. Another lesson we took away from this adventure was the value of saving seeds. The pumpkins, squash and zucchini, our own saved seeds, recovered much more quickly than the seeds that we had purchased. Maybe Grandma really did know a thing or two.
She still had a couple of tricks up her sleeve. Saving what little rain we got in barrels helped us to keep the garden alive this summer. Again, this practice had sustained Grandma’s garden in the 1930s. The most useful advice of all, however, was “make your garden a safe home for the wild things.” She never used chemical pesticides claiming they killed indiscriminately. “You have to give the good insects room to do their jobs.” So she squashed potato bugs with her hands until the assassin beetles arrived to carry on the fight. Her best weapon of all was garlic. Mixed with mineral oil, water and soap, it kept harmful insects as well as vampires at bay.
So, on behalf of the dogs, who love to lie and play in the garden while I work, thanks Grandma. I’ve known too many dogs that have become sick from contacting lawn or garden pesticides to want to see that happen to Jamie or Molly. Furthermore, now the American Veterinary Medicine Association has linked cancer in dogs to pesticides. That’s a terrible price to pay for a perfect lawn or garden. Besides, thanks to Grandma we can beat the bugs without endangering our family pets. If you want to learn more about natural gardening or get some recipes for organic pest controls, Green Communities Canada has an information kit called “Pesticide Free Naturally.” You can get a copy by contacting www.gca.ca or Toward Balance Support Network at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you don’t have time to make your own mixtures, then ask your local garden supplier for commercial organic pest controls. Most modern suppliers have them in stock. In the meantime, happy gardening and enjoy the rain. See you next week.