Saturday, 29 August 2009

Is perfection necessary in the garden?

by Throwback at Trapper Creek

We are taught from an early age to achieve the highest and best in everything we do. I'm no stranger to 4-H competitions or state fair contests. And the thrill of placing high and the angst of placing less than perfect can really set us up for how we view everything we do later in life. What does a blue ribbon on a quilt at the fair have to do with a garden? A lot really. I like nice, neat weed free rows but I also have learned to chill out a little when it comes to less than perfect produce and weeds in the gardens and hedgerows.

In our efforts to raise our own food, I think sometimes we forget the bigger picture. I can see a culprit has been at work in our brassica patch, but normally it is just a few nibbles. And really does a bug taking a bite of your plant really ruin it? If I see pests I do pick them off and either squish them or take the morsels to the hens, who relish the treat and will make that into eggs or nutrient rich manure. As the health of our gardens grows, the plants become more resistant to pest attacks, if an infestation is present, it may be more of a fertility/management problem than an insect problem.

With that in mind, we try to select our seeds and plants for pest and disease resistance and continually build our soil with composted manure and cover crops where appropriate.
Insects don't happen to bother me, so excuse me if this causes alarm. If it was snake I would be running from the room! But, I guess my point is that, this year so far, we have put up 45 quarts or so of broccoli and cauliflower for the freezer and eaten fresh broccoli for weeks. I have found 5 caterpillars, total. I think that is acceptable. They die when the broccoli is blanched for freezing, and they are visible as you can see in the photo above. For fresh eating, soaking the broccoli or cauliflower head in salt water will do the same thing - just in case your MIL is coming over for dinner.

I actually worry about food that is too perfect, when I think of what it takes to achieve that look. So take the insects with a grain of salt, literally and build a healthy eco-system in your garden, and enjoy the abundant harvests. Having an OK garden is actually OK.