Sustainable gardening and killing butterflies

A friend came out to look at my garden with me over the weekend and I was rambling about all the challenges so far this year and how I had been dealing with them… hand-picking caterpillars, using organic fertilizers, fungicides and Bt, varied planting instead of monoculture beds, etc. She asked me quite seriously “Why not use sevin dust?” I told her I was trying to use only organic pest control and we went on from there, talking about different pest control and fertilizer methods.

I have been thinking about that ever since. It seems like such a simple question with a simple answer. “I’m going organic.” What does it really mean? And why am I choosing this? I cannot communicate my beliefs to anyone else without those two answers being really clear in my own mind.

Why organic? Health issues are a given. I don’t want to be poisoned in my own garden, nor do I want to poison my family. There is another issue that doesn’t get enough attention, or maybe it’s too complex for many to think about deeply.

Biodiversity is important. There are reasons for the existence of even the tomato hornworms, they have other food/host plants that they keep under control. This is how nature finds balance. Broad-spectrum control chemicals are meant to reduce biodiversity, they are meant to kill everything but what a human has decided needs to be grown there. The use of these chemicals means no natural balance can be found. The use of broad-spectrum control chemicals is a self-fulfilling prophecy… once you start using them, you can’t stop. And the effects are broader than most people consider. Broad-spectrum control chemicals don’t just kill unwanted plants in the beds and insects on the plants, they also kill both beneficial and non-beneficial fungus and insects in the soil. Use of these chemicals create a sterile medium, a dead medium, which can then only feed the plants with added chemical fertilizers. Which the farmer must also purchase, and can never stop.

This is a broken system, yet think… if my family depended on the food I was growing, if we would starve without this food, would I hesitate to use chemicals? Even knowing the consequences? Would you?

This is the place of well-founded fear this system grew out of. Would organic farming really feed all 307 million people living in the United States? Could all farmers, everywhere, really stop using broad-spectrum control chemicals?

I wish I knew the answer. For right now, in this place, all I have is my little garden and a choice. What choice have you made?

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