After reading yet another article on an “all natural” pesticide, I decided that we need to talk a bit about Interdependence and how it applies when dealing with insects. Specifically when we are dealing with what we call pests.
The Permaculture approach is one of tolerance. This isn’t because we want to see how much of our garden will be eaten year after year. This is because of our understanding of the natural system we are trying to mimic in our work.
A well designed system not only should not need to be sprayed with pesticides (no matter how “natural”), it will actually be hindered by them.
You see when we are designing we take much care to include habitat for species which will keep the insects in check. In order for those species to take advantage of that habitat, they also need a food supply. While it seems counter intuitive, we NEED a percentage of what we view as garden pests to keep our helpers healthy and happy.
The concern that drives people to look for methods of controlling these pests is that your crops do in fact get eaten. In the first year or two of a developing system, you should expect some loss. This is a small sacrifice for the reduced effort and expense over the life of the system, as once it comes into balance, you should have minimal problems with pests. (Comparable to if you did spray crap on your plants constantly)
Other ways we control the damage wreaked by pests is through poly-culture planting, so that we do not lose all of any one planting in the event of infestation and by taking good care of the soil, water and nutrients our plants need. By doing this we ensure that they are strong and healthy and can survive a little feasting by a visiting swarm until the ladybug and mantis army marches in.
So before you run out into the garden and try whatever spray someone has concocted in their kitchen or lab…try to keep these things in mind. Your system will benefit greatly by your patience and understanding of how interdependent all functions in your garden are.