Sunday, June 08, 2008

The Dark Side of Gardening

Gardening is a popular pastime for many people. For some, gardening is a way to observe beauty and feel relaxation; for others, gardening is a way to showcase their green thumbs. Whatever the reason, gardening is certainly one approach to fostering a direct experience with nature.

But does gardening pose a negative impact on the environment? I read a shocking article in the NY Times a few days ago. Dubbed the "Garden Vigilantes," the reporter interviewed gardeners who kill pests in order to save their vegetables and flowers.

There's Jessica in Connecticut, who shoots garter snakes with a shotgun; Joanna in Brooklyn, who drowns squirrels with her bare hands; Susanne in Alaska who clubs porcupines; and Mr. Anonymous in Pennsylvania who shoots woodchucks. They kill pests because they're annoying. Those animals ruin their gardens or decimate their tranquil experiences with gardening.

Are these people somehow deranged? Probably not, despite their extreme and violent actions toward those animals. (Having said that, I'm appalled and disgusted to know these folks are killing helpless critters.) Although many people garden to appreciate nature, they don't generally think of their yards and gardens as part of the natural environment. This may be why gardeners are likely to plant invasive non-native species, use too much water, and apply pesticides to ward off bugs.

I naively thought gardening was a positive way of feeling connected to nature. But now I'm not so sure. It does make me wonder how people in general view themselves in relation to the natural world. What is valued most when people garden? And how do their values reconcile with preserving (or harming) the environment?


Nate Ring said...

I side with deranged. Many educated gardeners (or at least seasoned gardeners) know how to attract "pests" away from their desired crop. Plant two sets of crop...

Its really simple, but in my experience people don't think that far ahead.

If rabbits are the pest of your garden, try marigolds around your strawberries. They will go to town on those marigolds and leave 99% of the strawberries alone. Or if you have carrots plant radishes around the carrots. Rabbits are not too fond of radishes. Think of it as a smoke screen.

Groundhogs. Well they tend to enjoy veggies, so leave them your throw-aways. If they are a huge issue (like they were in my back yard) plant a couple trees in a corner of your lawn (sycamore, maple, oak) they are slow growing trees so they are pretty easy to manage, but because they have massive roots the form natural habitats for the groundhogs. From there you plant a simple distraction garden. Potatoes and other veggies.

Moles. Well moles love the grubs that are under all of the radishes, potatoes, carrots. They are not actually into those items. So control the grubs and you'll control the moles.

Squirrels are rarely a pest unless you have a peanut farm...If that is your farm of choice. Try feeding them with your left-overs. I've honestly never had problems with them so...I'm not sure of a really good tactic.

Snakes. Well they are only there because there is something to eat...field mice maybe small rabbits. read the rabbit section.

I have no idea what a porcupine even eats...I'd have to assume veggies of sorts much like the groundhog. If that method doesn't work


When I had the 2 acre garden in my backyard it had a number of issues. 1. we had an apple orchard which brought pretty much any critter you could imagine--deer, rabbits, groundhogs, foxes (to eat the other two), snakes, dogs, filthy rubbish children, etc.
2. It was pretty large.
3. I was about eight years old...what did I know about controlling for all of this.

But one of the few things it got right was the dim lit fact that the premise was to yeild small returns. It was a hobby. And like all hobbies it required a great deal of give and take. Some years the garden yielded pumpkins 200lbs+ other years, we'd have 400lbs of beans. I think these people have lost the respect of gardening which is very simple: Symbiosis.

Oh my I've gone on a rant. Well coming from someone who tended a garden for the better part of childhood I guess I'm entitled.

Michelle Verges said...

How 'bout getting a dog to shoo away uninvited pests? My miniature schnauzer loves chasing squirrels and rabbits. This seems like a simple and sensible way to ward off pests without resorting to murder.

SBCatMan said...

I garden and rabbits are a problem for certain things -- like broccolli! (Yeah, I know, that s probably mis-spelled!). I grow GREAT tomatoes, but my record for brocolli is TWO DAYS!! I did surround my garden with Marigolds. I thought the smell was supposed to keep the rabbits away. I did not realize that they simply prefer Marigolds.

But, back to the original question, I would NEVER harm the animals, even if they were bothering "my crops." My biggest frustration is with chipmunks who for some reason just pull -- or push -- new flowers right out of the ground. I just keep re-planting them, and usually if they make it through the first week, they are OK.

And, as you know if you have read my blog, my yard is quite e gathering for all kinds of neighborhood wildlife!

Anonymous said...

I'm having a memory of my grandmother down on her knees gardening with a cigarette hanging out of the side of her mouth. I don't think she ever considered nature. She loved wildly bright flowers the same way she loved nail polish and shoes. The dirt and bugs were just nuisances she had to deal with to grow the flowers she loved.