Friday, June 18, 2010

Violence Is Golden


Why Gardeners Are Like the Mob

I wonder sometimes about the morality of gardeners, especially organic gardeners. Well, especially me. Here I am, trying to raise vegetables that wouldn't naturally grow in my environment. Every one of those succulent, juicy, tender salad greens and sugar-snap peas and tomatoes is adored by plant-eating insects--and who can blame them? But since I don't want to use pesticides to protect my produce, I attract carnivorous insects instead who will do their level best to devour all of the vegetarian ones.

I don't know about you, but I know how I feel during films at the natural history museum when T-Rex goes for the peaceful plant-eaters. Or when the pride of lions takes down the lonely baby elephant. Or when the fox finally catches the despairing rabbit. Wicked predator! Poor prey! Sure, it may all be the course of nature and blah blah blah, but how the heart weeps for the harmless little creature that's writhing in agony, desperate to stay alive...

Yet in the garden I happily go out of my way to attract the predators, which, in a masterful Orwellian move, organic gardeners call "beneficial insects." Oh, the irony: first I invite the planteaters to a banquet the likes of which they've never seen, and then I call in the big guns to kill 'em off. As I recall, the Borgias did stuff like that. Is it good? Is it moral?

Frankly, it's irresistible. After the first radish gets eaten to the midrib by cabbage moth caterpillars or the first tomato leaves start to curl with an insect-borne virus, I am more than happy to consort with the thugs of the insect world. "Ladybird?" A charming name for an entire species of serial killers. "Lacewing?" Oh, yeah, sure--as in "Arsenic and Old..." "Praying mantis?" Soulmates with the crusading Abbot Amalric ("Kill them all--let God sort them out."). I love them. And I will gladly take out a contract on the life of every last aphid and leafhopper.

Meet my cousin Guido, little planteaters...

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