Putting the “Ugh” in an Ugly Garden

I want to tell you all about my lovely  June garden… I want to post beautifully composed photos of the peas going gangbusters, of the fresh strawberries we pick to sweeten our morning cereal,  the lovely  green beans  in full flower,  and the prairie forbes  just opening their petals to the sky.


But tell the truth and shame the Devil, my Grandma Juanita used to say. I’m a sho’ nuff knotty-headed organic gardener and I’ve got to tell it like it is.  Something is going on in my garden this year, something that puts the “ugh” in an ugly garden.   Brace yourselves.

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Organic Pest Control Series: Links & Synopses

Friends and supporters have requested that I complete a series I began last year on Organic Pest Control.  Prior to doing so, I thought I would provide a link to the series so that new readers can familiarize themselves with my approach to the subject.  Check out:

Organic Pest Control Series: Links & Synopses.

Looking forward to the gardening season!



The Season for Arboricide

A tree properly topped in autumn...

A tree properly topped in autumn…

Right around this time of year, landscaping and yard service companies start cruising my neighborhood.  They come in search of easy prey: nice middle-class homeowners eager to keep a tidy yard, and concerned about the danger large trees supposedly pose to telephone and electrical wires, the roof, or the neighbor’s five-figure fully winterized RV.  They’ll  leave flyers in your mailbox or dangling on the doorknob.  In my case,  they come on up to the stoop and  ring the doorbell, having greedily eyeballed the monstrous pin-oak that towers over my house, the phone lines, and the neighbors’ houses on two sides.

“If we top your tree before leaf-fall,” encouraged one sly salesman, smiling his honey-sweet money-shredder smile: “you won’t have any raking to do.  We’re insured.”

Get thee behind me Satan, indeed.

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Ecological Pest Control II: Soil Biodiversity

Where We Have Been

New readers  following my philosophy of organic pest control can click here for links to the entire series as well as for a brief synopsis of the argument as it has evolved in the four previous installments.


Friends, we have to talk about weeds.  Soberly.  Perhaps even tenderly.

Weeds can bring the hardiest of gardeners to tears; they can turn a reasonable adult into a tantrum-tossing two year old.  They can make a sanctified granny take the Lord’s name in vain.  Brace yourselves, because I’ve got to tell it straight-from-the-hip the way I see it: weeds are an integral part of a functional, maximally biodiverse ecosystem.  As such, they are also part of the organic gardener’s ecological pest-control tool-kit.

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A Few Commandments for Noob Tomato Growers

Thou shalt suffer no weed to touch the leaves nor crowd the drip line of the tomato plant.  Mulch thou the drip line of the tomato with weed barrier, that the tomato’s roots remain cool in the summer sun, and free to feed upon the nutrients of the soil without hindrance.

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Ecological Pest Control I: Soil Biodiversity

Where We Have Been:

In Organic Pest Control III: Acts of Gardening Violence, Petty and Profound, I suggested a conceptual framework for organic pest control based on the notion that labor intensive interventions are ecologically harmful.  This  framework is intended to help organic ecosystem-ers decide when, whether and how to deploy ecological, mechanical, and chemical pest interventions in a selective rather than reactive manner, based upon the peculiar ecologies in which they are working, and based upon their gardening goals and personal resources.

We will explore each intervention — ecological, mechanical, and chemical — in more detail as we progress over the next several installments.  I want to begin with ecological intervention, the very chassis of organic pest control.

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Organic Pest Control III: Acts of Gardening Violence, Petty and Profound

Where We Have Been:

In Organic Pest Control I and II: Breaking with the Hive Mind, I challenged organic gardeners to break with ways of thinking about organic gardening that I believe get in the way of holistic relationships with backyard ecosystems.

Also, I challenged organic gardeners to reconsider gardening not as a benign, impact-neutral waltz with a romanticized Mother Nature, but as a range of ecosystemically violent choices, each of which exacts a cost, whether or not we are willing to acknowledge it.

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