In tribute to the late great John Seymour, (author of many brilliant books including The Self-sufficient Life and How to Live It) who has taught, inspired and entertained me during my forays into the world of growing my own organic vegetables. I wanted to include in this series on Organic Vegetable Growing, his six laws that should be adhered to; an organic philosophy:
The gardener must work with nature and not against it.
Nature is diverse and therefore the gardener must practise diversity.
The gardener must husband other forms of life – animal or vegetable – in environments as close as possible to those for which they evolved.
The gardener must return to the soil as much, or nearly as much, as he takes from it.
The gardener must feed the soil and not the plant.
The gardener must study nature as a whole and never any part of it in isolation.
These ‘laws’ really make sense for me. They put the whole organic gardening into a simple and basic format. The reason I started to garden organically was not really put into words at the time, but it was a general desire to just do things ‘naturally’. I realise any form of garden, being managed by us is not entirely natural but we can work with nature rather than forever battling against it.
I have my moments when the weeds or caterpillars are winning and I wonder how simple life with herbicide and insecticide would be. But overall I enjoy the fact that my vegetable garden is a far from sterile place. It is full of life. Some of that life would like to eat my crops, but generally that life takes very little and gives a whole lot more in return. Those caterpillars attract birds that while they’re here, eat some other pest. Similarly the caterpillars help our hens keep up their protein intake!
The birds do tear the odd cabbage leaf for a vegetarian snack whilst they’re insect nibbling, but untidy outer leaves are of no concern so long as I get to enjoy the hearts, crisp, firm and insect free.
And, when I really don’t want to share my bountiful harvest with the local wildlife, it is often a simple matter of throwing a net over things, picking off bugs, squishing eggs or using a soap spray insecticide to take ownership of the plot again.
I plant more than I need so I do not need to panic if others eat a little of my harvest. Of course there are limits, but manual intervention is often the best method of pest control in a vegetable garden. Farming is a different kettle of fish, but growing organic vegetables on a scale to be completely self-sufficient in vegetables, even for a large family really needn’t be such a huge task to manage organically.