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Outdoors: Gardens

Every year, about now, my recurrent ear-worm is the glorious Finale to the operetta 'Candide'—“Make Our Garden Grow."

In the introduction to this closing number, Candide vows to “cast away all vain speculations as to the of the meaning of this meaningless world, and to fulfill my natural function working God’s Earth from dawn to dusk.”

In my case, maybe after work and on weekends, I’ll have time to help my husband put in a small plot and like Candide, “we’ll do the best we know to make our garden grow.”

So what is the best we know? Admittedly we are still learning. But, we know for sure that in the Great Lakes region, it is a serious mistake to plant a garden too early. Wait until the soil is warm.

Another mistake is over-tilling. Healthy soil is filled with countless microorganisms. To avoid tearing up networks of these beneficial soil creatures, it is better to disturb the soil as little as possible.

And should I even have to say this? Never put pesticides in your garden. Besides the obvious issue of exposing yourself and your family to poison, know that insecticides kill all insects, not just the pests listed on the container. So, though you may be knocking back the insect pests, you also are killing the beneficial insects that prey on them.

And here is the problem with that----insect pests reproduce exponentially faster than the beneficial insect predators. And no matter how much poison one applies, a few individuals will survive. The insect pests will bounce back almost immediately; insect predators will not. Within a few days, the pests will be ubiquitous, and the beneficial insects will no longer be able to keep them in check.

If you can tolerate a few damaged leaves and hold off on pesticides, insect predators will find your garden and take care of your problem without polluting the soil and the water.

Jamie Bernstein, daughter of Candide’s composer, wrote, “the soaring chorus seems to be telling us that growing our garden is a metaphor for the flowering of mankind itself.” Perhaps, we humans can start to make the world a more ecologically sustainable place by doing the best we know to make our gardens grow.

"Outdoors with Coggin Heeringa" can be heard every Wednesday on Classical IPR.