Pests and the Organic Gardener – A Friendly Rivalry

pigeonbreadI love the way organic gardening forces us human beings to think.

I enjoy organic gardening because it is sporting. A fair fight, if you like. Some you win, some you lose. It is a challenge of man versus nature, a chance to exploit all our ingenuity and resourcefulness to outwit the local wildlife.

Using the Resources Around Us
Sometimes this can be using brute force, like netting brassicas, or building a fruit cage to stop the birds nicking our much prized soft fruit.

I love the cuter, delicate uses of the resources around us too. A few sharp, crunched up shells from the beach spread around the plot to irritate those snails, and save young seedlings from being munched.

Using Other Wildlife and Plants, and Outsmarting a Pest
Then there are the times that we use other wildlife or plants to keep the pests at bay. Encouraging wasps to eat the caterpillars (a masterful move, and I doff my cap to anyone who has successfully pulled that off) or planting marigolds in and around the plot to deter the whitefly with their scent.

The best moments are when you genuinely outsmart a pest, like growing carrots higher up to beat the low-flying carrotfly. You cannot beat that feeling of satisfaction when you know that this year, you’ve won.

Fair Play to Pests
Of course, sometimes you just have to say fair play to your nemesis. If a snail can climb several metres up a tree to eat plums, like plenty did last year, I feel you’ve just got to sit back and be dignified in defeat. The resident allotment badger that dug under the pallet fortress designed to stop him clambering over the top deserved every ounce of the sweetcorn.

And when the birds learn that the old CDs and tin cans rattling in the breeze can’t hurt them, you’ve just got to applaud their awareness and think of more deterrents for next year.

Looking on the Bright Side
However, organic gardening is about looking on the bright side too. I might have lost to the cabbage whites this year, but I got the better of the blackfly by planting nasturtiums. My runner beans have had real problems with blackfly in the past, but this year I felt very smug, watching them destroy the sacrificial plants whilst the runner beans remained untouched. I’ve had my best runner bean crops for years.

The same principle has worked in part with feeding stale loaves of bread to the pigeons (pictured). They seem mad keen for bread, which is much preferable to them picking at my brassicas.

A Friendly Rivalry
In my romantic little head, I see the organic gardener versus local wildlife battle as a friendly one, like neighbouring cricket teams competing on the village green.

It has taken me a while, but I’ve finally come to the conclusion that organic gardening sometimes means holding your hands up and admitting defeat to many of those pesky pests.

After seven years of growing organically, I’m okay with that. I’ve built a genuine affection for my vegetable garden adversaries and our annual skirmishes. In fact, if this was cricket, I’d sit around at the end of the season and have a beer with those bothersome pests.

3 thoughts on “Pests and the Organic Gardener – A Friendly Rivalry”

  1. So which pests have been bugging you this year?

    We think a squirrel stole my allotment neighbour’s sweetcorn over the bank holiday weekend.

    I’ve had a cat visiting my garden and was annoyed by its smelly deposits across the veg patch (naturally whenever I harvested something big or cleared the soil!) but last week we realised we’ve not seen the pigeons and magpies so much this summer.

  2. You are so right. I just plant more of each crop, knowing full well that some of my crop will be eaten by pests but it doesn’t matter as I have some to spare.

  3. Sometimes you get surprised when you think all is lost. I am one of few who like Brussel sprouts and discovered the seedlings were getting attack by something. I decided it was a hopeless cause to save them and just left them in the ground. Figured they could be sacrificial to save the others.

    Checked my garden yesterday to see these two previously dismal plants are now healthy. Am absolutely surprised!

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