What happened to all the blue birds?”, said the little farm girl in the early 1960s.
“It’s not only the blue birds, many things are missing this year.” said her father as he gazed off into the distance.
I guess I can say I was aware at a young age of my environment. Everywhere I have lived I always had a garden, but not until early 2000 did I start gardening on a larger scale.
Around that same time it occurred to me that if I am growing my own produce, why not do it organically? I didn’t know how organically you dealt with pests and corrected soil problems, so I started reading more about organic vegetable gardens. I saw some studies that said many common pesticides were just as bad or maybe worse than DDT from the early 50s and 60s. Had we not learned anything from Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring in the 60s? Eliot Coleman books on organic gardening became my garden bibles. In addition soil amendment studies showed that maybe tilling and certain types of fertilizer were not the answer I initially thought they were.
From that point forward I made a larger effort to control what I put on my vegetable garden. I started buying organic seeds as well as saving my own seed that had acclimated to our area of the country. Normally I try not to use any type of pesticide and instead use compost tea or a mild soap but I will use neem oil . I found it was a better alternative but only the extract was available until a few years ago. Now I buy virgin 100% cold pressed neem oil not the extract. Only as a last resort do I apply Bt for the cabbage moth caterpillar damage that occurs with the brassicas. The fertilizer I use is organic. Why did I try without any conventional chemicals? Because if it was killing insects and wildlife I was sure that it had many effects on the human body. I became convinced that maybe we didn’t need them.
Photo above was taken of an early garden season and before low-rise raised beds.
But another thing happened in the hilltop garden, there were all types of bees, butterflies of all sizes and birds. No pesticides! A neighbor remarked to me that he didn’t see as many bees as he used to while I was looking at his garden. I mentioned that he should stop over and see our garden that year. When he did, he was amazed at all the insects that were there. Not just bees, but all sizes of them, various kinds of butterflies and damselflies. Even a red tail hawk likes to sit on one of our tall tee-pee trellises. He can definitely stay since the hawk can take care of the field mice that have found a new home.
Each year is always a new learning experience in organic gardening but I will continue to do so. How one little area changed so much in a few years has been amazing to me.