Thursday, June 16, 2011

I love it when a plan comes together.

Summer '09, a very good friend of mine and organic gardener extraordinaire in Eastern Washington, toured my urban garden for the first and last time, plucking potato beetles from the leaves of my spuds and stomping them on the sidewalk.

"You don't want those guys hanging around," he said. 

"Why not?" I answered. "If we take on the role of predator ourselves, how will we ever get something else to do it for us? In other words, if there is no prey available, how will the predators establish themselves in my garden, and take the work load off of my shoulders?"

I think that was the first time his worldview had ever been challenged.

About a month ago I noticed that the top performing grape variety in my garden, which wasn't a muscadine or scuppernong just for the record, had a serious aphid infestation on the newer vines. A few years ago my reaction would have been to make a tomato spray, or break off the offending vines and take them as far away from my garden as I could. Sometimes I even put the aphid-infested vegetation in a black plastic bag, tied it tight, and left it in the sun.

But the new me resists those urges, and this time I said, no, I will let nature come up with a solution for these aphids. Tonight, a month later, when I toured the garden with my toddling son as dusk came on, I happened to notice that that grape vine was completely aphid-free! I stooped to inspect it more closely and there wasn't a single aphid to be found!
Red Guinea Wasps on the nest.  They pack a painful punch on anyone who dares to disturb their peace, but potato beetles are one of their favorite meals!  Don't rush to judge your helpers. (Photo courtesy of

And I didn't lift one finger to intervene.

If it matters, red guinea wasps are the potato beetle's main natural predator, and ladybugs are the aphid's primary, though certainly not only, hunter. I've left some "weeds" in my garden this season that I didn't particularly care for just because they seemed to be hosting ladybugs.  It's a hard lesson to take to heart, but the rewards are endless.

I could tell you a similar story about tent caterpillars on a few of my blueberries and pomegranates, but I'll save it for another time.

A reminder every time we come home.  Dump the hubris, and let Mother Nature do what she does best.

God I love it when a plan comes together...

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