Monday, July 24, 2006

The 15-foot garden

alcea nigra
In the boating world, some of us with less-than-perfect old wooden boats refer to them as 30-foot boats. That is, from 30 feet away the varnish and paint looks perfect but we aren't sailing showboat coffee tables, we're sailing boats. We walk over the decks and scratch things and oh well, we aren't perfect.

Let me introduce you to the concept of the 15-foot garden.

This first year hollyhock looks pretty good from 10-15 feet away. It is lush and full, growing strongly. Next year it will form an excellent backdrop to the garden against the pale yellow siding. As it is an Alcea nigra (black hollyhock) it should be a good colour contrast.

And it looks pretty good from 10 feet away.

But when I get close up to it, I see something a little less perfect. I see insect damage. And some of that damage is extensive.

But what's the problem here? The overall health of the plant is good except for a leaf or two. Do I spray to control a problem that isn't a problem for the plant (remember the plant is healthy) but is only a problem for me if I get too close to the plant?

The plant is healthy.

There is a thriving community of pests in my garden.

This means there is or will shortly be a thriving community of predators to eat the pests in my garden.

If I spray, I'll likely kill off the predators as well as the pests. If I refrain from spraying, I'll allow Mother Nature's workers to handle the problem.

The plant will be healthy.

And more importantly, so will I.

I won't bore you with the numbers of studies showing the adverse effects of chemical exposure.

I'll simply encourage you to take a step back to the 15 foot garden view.


At 5:42 PM, Blogger Janet said...

Thanks Doug. I really appreciate this kind of posting. We could all use a little more perspective.

At 6:36 PM, Blogger Blackswamp_Girl said...

Wonderful post... I agree wholeheartedly, and I definitely needed the reminder today.

At 9:29 PM, Blogger MARIE said...

Thanks Doug,

I, too, have had a bunch of problems with my hollyhocks. You're right. You made me remember what my grandmother used to say. "Oh, look like something's chewing there." Then she'd walk away. It was never a big deal.

Here in Pennsylvania we have a lot of Japanese beetles. They were making the canna leaves look like brown lace. I sprayed the canna with a mixture of 2 tbs. baking soda & a little dish soap in a gallon of water & they went somewhere else (the crepe myrtle I think). They eat something else less noticeable and the remaining canna leaves are OK. 'specially if you stand 15 feet away :-)



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