When we sing the praises of our gardens, the pleasure, satisfaction and relaxation of them, even the work involved - because there is much satisfaction in working in the garden even for fair weather gardeners such as myself. We do not often mention the dark side of it. The warfare, the carnage the bitter enmity.
The unmentionables - those who would destroy our paradise:)
They can be many.
They are responsible for many thousands of tons of lethal pesticides and poisons being sprayed, hidden, dusted etc on gardens over the decades.
Gardeners on the whole do not like them, the unruly hordes and armies of destroyers
Aphids, flies, larvae, slugs, snails, ants, grubs, rodents, moles.
Do not like diseases
Black spot, blight, leaf curl or more
My father sprayed his roses, Mum would put out slug pellets. They waged war on aphids I grew up knowing this is what a gardener did. What farmers did. It was war against them all. I read about the devastating famines which could result from such as potato blight, the loss of fortunes from insect ravages. It was the accepted order of things.
I left home and
viewed the world.
Loved the world.
When I came home and discovered the joys of gardening I thought there had to be a better way. But I did not possess a garden and my parents knew how to garden. Things were changing even with traditional gardeners such as they. They had the frog ponds, they had the birds. Concerns over dogs eating slug pellets had made Mum look for alternatives, a start not perfect however it was their garden not mine.
This garden though is mine. I wanted a garden full of life. Could I do it? Well not entirely of course. But I think when there is dispute it is more even handed - more like ‘cricket’.
At the beginning, of course, every new planting in my barren garden attracted every pest in the neighbourhood. It takes time to create the infrastructure to enable nature to largely take its course.
Begin with the soil and build up I would mutter to myself. The answer as some TV gardener once said lies in the soil. Create healthy soil. Create healthy plants.
Provide plenty of cover for the predators, dig those frog ponds. In the meantime as the friends of the gardener build up their populations what to do about the pests who just love an unhealthy or weak garden.
It is hands on, one to one. If aphids were not welcome it was finger and thumb time but I had to make sure enough were left to feed the ladybirds, so that they could produce the next generation. No sprays for my new garden. Some plants that I knew from old would, cause problems were simply not grown others such as the lily were abandoned after a few years *it took them that long to find me) I liked those bright red beetles too much to squash them.
This is part of my problem of course, I do quite like some of these so called pests.
Take the snail for instance fascinating creatures. I watched one once many years ago in a different time and place climb up a shrub from ground to the top, and then down again. Have you ever seen one manipulate that shell up and up, leave by leaf. It is so difficult to consider them an enemy. After a shower they can be watched promenading in family groups, looking all the world as if they were the gentry at the Rivera. Papa, Mama and children. They will even stop when level with another family as if to exchange a good day or two with each other. I cannot kill them wholesale although I have killed some mostly with out realizing it. They die, or they leave their intact shells behind, I find dozens of these empty shells around, what happens I don’t know, but I gather up the shells and use them as a decorative mulch on my pots. The shells are very decorative.
Not so keen on slugs which is odd, put a shell on them and I wouldn't know them from a snail.
Ants are a pest here if they get under the paving as I cannot risk uneven surfaces. But I like the ant. All over the world I have watched them. Admired their work ethics although there is a sneaky suspicion that they are slaves.
The white butterflies which love my cabbages are such a joy to see when the sunlight reflects of their wings. If I want cabbages they must be shown the error of their ways. The caterpillars could be picked of by hand -I would have raggedy leaves but they still tasted okay. Having some plants as hostage plants also worked in some cases.
Then of course there are the rodents. Mice voles and rats. They are not my enemies in the garden. I quite like them. The smaller ones do little damage, the rats leave me alone. They like the center of the compost heaps in the winter carving out neat and cosy hidey holes away from the cold. I have a rule; outside they have as much right as I, indoors they are banned. Indoors I feel justified in using whatever means is needed to send them on their way. My house. My rules.
In the last garden I watched through the window one cold morning as a rat appeared through the hedge and selected a windfall apple. It seemed to be a whole fruit. He could not transport it back through the hedge.
He pushed it.
He pulled it.
To no avail.
He cut it in half with his teeth and pulled one half back through the hedge. Came back for the other. Not quite in half the second piece was still to large to go through so he proceeded to cut that one as well. He managed to get the whole apple through in the end. What a lot of energy expended, was it for a family for a store.? And what determination. You have to admire them - well I do anyway.
Over the years I have created a standing army of helpers; frogs birds, hover flies, wasps, spiders and many more. The plants which can remain healthy stay in the garden those who succumb to attack have to go. This year due to bad joints and health I have had to resort to weed killer on the paths, I don't like it but paths are needed. I hope full scale massacres will not be in order. The vegetables have gone so those pests will vanish over time The established plants can manage attack from slugs and snail and the frogs grow fat on them as do the birds. I don't like the self centeredness , or the sting, of the wasps but they do a grand job with aphids and make the most beautiful nests. Have you seen one. Masterpieces all.
It can be done, if perfection is not the aim of the game. It can be done if watching is more exciting than the doing. I have never been a perfectionist, always more inclined to sit and watch, known for my untidiness.
Now my way of gardening suits me down to the ground:)