My experience over the past three months as a member of the NFI Garden Education Program has been overwhelmingly positive. The same can be said of having a class-based plot in the Mamie D. Lee Community Garden. However, despite my exuberant picture below, I don't want to give the impression that its all been easy or abundant.
Indeed, not everything I have planted has produced fruit:
- a sage plant withered away soon after transplanting;
- the strawberry plant I purchased on a whim in mid-June never flowered (planted too late in the season I think);
- half the arugula never came up, and the other half is struggling;
- pests have dotted my cabbage leaves with holes;
- and I'm not optimistic about the eggplants, which as I mentioned in a previous post were ravaged by flea beatles early in the season, and still haven't flowered.
In addition to a class on pests I mentioned in a previous post, another recent class on the risks of "loss" in the garden was on fungus and disease. While I have painstakingly pulled pests off my eggplant, green beans, and tomato plants, thankfully I haven't yet had to deal with any fungus issues.
After learning about the potential for pests and disease, I recognized that these little plants are up against a lot. In an earlier class this season, one idea particularly caught my attention – the fact that weeds were genetically superior to vegetable plants and would grow much more easily and abundantly.
In addition to giving me a heads up about the frequent weeding needed, it also made me pause to realize what an (ordinary) miracle growing food is.
And thankfully we’ve been learning a lot about how to prevent and address pests and disease:
- We were taught early on in the season to keep our tools and hands clean and move mulching straw away from touching the plant directly;
- We have been instructed to remove damaged leaves from plants, where disease may more easily enter, as well as removing dead leaves and debris from the garden which can harbor disease or pests;
- Weeding also removes food sources and hiding places for pests;
- And companion plants can attract beneficial insects like ladybugs and wasps. They can do the pest removal work for you!
Jenn Svetlik is a member of NFI's Garden Education Program for the 2013 season. She'll be reflecting on the experience throughout the summer.