Friday, July 10, 2015

Full Confession: I am no longer an organic gardener

After this past week I can no longer call myself an organic farmer. Sigh.

The Japanese beetles got me. I’ve put up with squash bugs and voles and those nasty invisible beetles that eat up my beans. And while we’ve had Japanese beetles before, I’ve never reached for the chemical weapons with any of them. I moved plants around, incentified the cats, and picked thousands of beetles off plants to drop them to their certain death in my bucket of dish soap.

But then last year happened. I wrote about it. It was devastating. They killed my peach and my nectarine trees, both of which were loaded with their first real crop. I was heartbroken. We ardently applied the milky spore – spent hundreds on it to be sure we treated all the ground around the gardens and fruit trees. We ordered new fruit trees and chalked the whole experience up to the difficult but noble pursuit of organic gardening.

And then I came home from my camping trip in June to find the Japanese beetles were back by the millions. They were devouring my grapes which had barely survived the onslaught last year. They had lived, but been reduced to the size they were the second year of their lives (they are eight this year). The beetles swarmed my gorgeous plum tree which was loaded with beautiful tiny purple plums for the first time ever. The raspberries and asparagus, even the rhubarb were swarmed by beetles.

What the heck? How did this happen? What about all that milky spore? Seems last year’s beetles must have sent out a message and it went viral and now all their friends and relatives had converged on our little hillside for a mass feast.