The Case for Doing Nothing about Pests

| 12/2/2011 9:13:40 PM

The highest form of generalship is to balk at the enemy’s plan.  The next best is to prevent junction of the enemy’s forces.  The next in order is to attack the enemy in the field and the worst policy is to besiege walled cities.  – Sun Tzu 

I see a problem with the way pests are handled in the garden.   

The question that is too frequently asked is:  What can I spray on my garden like magic juice that makes pests just – POOF - disappear?  Hardly ever does one ask if they should do anything at all.  I contend that in most cases you don’t need to do anything!  Sometimes it’s better to let nature take its course.   

We are too quick to use the nuclear option.  We spray everything in the garden with our favorite organic spray and hope it works.  I call that “spray and pray”.  The organic label allows us to retain an air of nobility and justice.  That’s a little like beating someone with a stick and telling them they got an organic beating – at least I didn’t use an aluminum bat.  That would be unnatural! 

There’s an irrefutable law in nature that most people seem to overlook when dealing with pests.  The things lower on the food chain are greater in number.  I call this the rabbit to wolf ratio.  There will never be more wolves than rabbits in a given area for a sustained time.  The population of prey must support the population of predator.  Thus, anytime you spray a pest you – by proxy – get rid of a few beneficial insects.  It doesn’t matter if they even come in contact with your “remedy”.   

This is the logic.  Some people will point to the fact that they used an organic spray that doesn’t harm beneficial insects.  But you are depriving them of a food source.  And if you remove their food from the equation you will either starve them out or give them the message that they aren’t welcome in your garden. 

Jason Akers
12/8/2011 1:14:57 AM

Todd - I spent a few years worrying that companion planting wasn't working. It took a few years. I'm glad you replied. Some people think I'm a pesticide prude. When the june bugs are eating my grapes where I haven't started companion planting I will use something organic on them.

12/7/2011 4:40:19 PM

The only thing we ever use is Sevin. We do not sprinkle it on our crops other than the grapes. We don't use any herbicide or pesticides in any type of amount. We've always had a hands off approach, thiknking that some crop is better than none. We try to companion plant as much as we can.

Jason Akers
12/6/2011 4:15:58 AM


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