Posted on February 15 2016
“When the Apocalypse comes, I’m going to plant a garden and feed my family.”— Every Under-informed Survivalist Ever
Every single thing I’ve ever tried as a self-sufficient, prepper, survivalist has been twelve times harder than I imagined. Gardening is the exception.
Gardening is twenty times harder.
Just when you think you’re dominating in the garden, pests invade in droves and humble you. Mold, aphids, moths, grasshoppers and beetles, all marshall forces against your efforts to feed your family. They are the devil.
Even more challenging, organic gardening demands that you eschew foul chemicals — using your wits and Mother Nature’s counter-measures to put pests back on their heels. Organic gardening also carries with it the benefit of not relying upon industrialized society to cure your garden woes, which is fortunate for the post-apocalyptic green thumb.
Sadly, I cannot tell you the secrets that will unlock an organic arsenal against your voracious intruders. Every garden, in every region, suffers from different garden banes. I can, however, give you an example of the issues and the types of solutions you might consider.
First of all, I would hate to be figuring this all out post-apocalypse, when the internet would be just darkened screens. Today, you can often Google your way out of impossible pest issues. In the alternative, many local universities go to great lengths to assist gardeners in their labors. Without Google or universities, you’ll be forced to tap local talent. Perhaps, that local talent will be you.
Every year, you will be attacked by pests, and you will search and destroy through trial and error. Every year, the pests in my garden struggle with an ever diminishing return on their investment. Unfortunately, I cannot download to you what these years of gardening have taught me. It wouldn’t do you any good.
Instead, here are some types of pestilence and a few good starting points for dominating them:
1. Little Bugs. Aphids curse most gardens. They’re prolific, omni-present and voracious. In a grid-down world, I would have my children eat them. I’m not kidding. Smashing aphids by hand and licking up their broken bodies isn’t as inefficient (and disgusting) as it sounds. They’re moderately sweet. I literally kill most of my aphids by hand, mostly because I’m too lazy to go get the organic pesticide spray.
Also, though, if I lay off the organic pesticide spray, my ladybugs and assassin bugs proliferate. And, the little wasps that love to murder the aphids come around more. I go back and forth between using natural aphid predators and pesticides. Some types of aphids are totally repelled by marigolds — it’s one of the few “nuclear” organic pest repellents I’ve tested (in that it works every time.) I plant one marigold at the base of each tomato plant.
2. Big Bugs. Squash bugs, cabbage moths, snails, grasshoppers and any number of other large bugs can prove tougher to beat because most of them hide so well. Sometimes, the large bugs you’re seeing eat smaller bugs. You must be discerning when you set to exterminating them. I’ve had some success against large bugs with diatomaceous earth. This “prepper remedy” is said to cure everything from loneliness to cancer. I’ve had very little success against most garden plagues employing diatomaceous earth, but it seems to repel large bugs — especially squash bugs.
3. Mold. Sadly, mold still kicks my ass. I’ve tried half-a-dozen approaches only to lose half my squash crop this year. If you have had success with an organic remedy to white leaf mold, please email me.
So, as you can see, there are a variety of ways to attack pests:
Other plants. Some pests are repelled by plants, like marigolds. Other times, pests hate garlic oil, chrysanthemum oil or neem oil (spider mites and other tree ailments.)
Other bugs. Ladybugs, assassin bugs, praying mantis and a variety of small wasps bring hell to garden pests. Some larger beetles also consume pests in gigantic quantities. Some of these are available online, but it’s hard to get stable self-reproducing populations in your garden.
Organic pesticides. It seems like a contradiction of terms, but organic pesticides are really just “other plants.” The oil of insecticidal plants is synthesized and combined with other plant oils in ways that kill a variety of pests. I know that the “Safer” brand of organic pesticide is utterly lethal to aphids if it makes direct contact.
Home remedies. Diatomaceous earth supposedly acts like a lethal abrasive on bugs with an exoskeleton. The tiny, fossilized crustaceans mined from ancient seashores are sharp and they’re said to be destructive to the insect body, causing them to dry out. I do know this for sure: my squash bugs stay away from it. But, rain washes diatomaceous earth away forcing me to re-apply often. Other home remedies are useful against molds and other pestilence. Again, this is where the internet is a godsend.
I’ve purchased as many regional books as I can find dealing with garden pests. If ever the internet were to go dark, I’d have to try my luck in print. I also surround myself with experienced gardeners and arborists. They’re better than the internet, even, in feeding me options — especially since many of them have connections through the local universities’ agricultural programs.
I hate pests, but I secretly enjoy unlocking their vulnerabilities — then dominating them like a blood-thirsty warlord of the garden.