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Don't Poison Your Food
by Nancy Castleman

We garden organically, and think everyone with a garden can successfully do likewise with very little effort. Here are our top tips:

Plant in Accordance with this Little Ditty:
One for the rook.
One for the crow.
One to rot,
And one to grow.

In other words, plant a lot more than you'll need. That way, if some doesn't make it, you'll still have plenty. And if you end up with extra produce, maybe it'll inspire you to "put by" more of it for next winter, or to find good homes for any surplus.

Don't Worry About a Few Bugs Here & There
Little critters take care of a million chores around the garden, from pollinating crops, to aerating the soil, to feeding birds, and who knows what else? Aside from our herd of overfed cats, who occasionally kill a mouse, only to abandon it, most of our garden's visitors never harvest more than they can eat. Any damage they do is inadvertent, natural, and necessary for their survival. Still, when they eat more than we care to share, we generally pick them off and toss them out of the garden, or hose the plants down.

Note that I referred to little critters in the above oh-so enlightened passage. I feel quite differently about deer and woodchucks! We work hard to keep them out of the garden, mainly with a tall fence that we've pieced together over the years.

We also have a lot of electric wire strung up, which Marc has set on a timer. It comes on only at night, when the deer are likely to stop by. The little shock serves as a harmless deterrent to the deer, and we avoid frying any birds during the daytime. We've also trapped (humanely) and relocated more woodchucks than I can count.

Reach for the Safe Alternatives
Although we seem to do less and less killing here every year (even the slugs get tossed), we do pull out stronger ammo when something's really bugging a crop or two. For example, like many organic gardeners, we're willing to use a specific, naturally occurring bacteria, Bacillus thuringiensis.

Called Bt for short, it's harmless to people, other animals, beneficial insects, and birds, but targets imported cabbage worms and Colorado potato beetles, which can threaten broccoli, cabbage, and potatoes when there are enough of them munching away on a plant.

And whenever a friend or neighbor is being bothered by hordes of ladybugs coming out of hibernation, we're happy to come and get 'em. They're always welcome here -- by everyone but the thousands of aphids they devour. (They store quite well in the refrigerator. Email me if you want storage info.)

Time It Right to Avoid Yet More Garden Foes
During the first few gardens, we were beseiged by bugs, particularly by striped cucumber beetles, squash bugs, and squash vine borers, who dine on pumpkins, cucs, melons, and as you might expect, squash. Now, we've gotten these villans of the pumpkin patch to pretty much leave us alone.

How you ask? We generally don't put these plants in the ground until July, by which time the bugs have found other places to breed.

Find Out What Works for Others
As we were learning about organic gardening, we read and reread back issues of Organic Gardening Magazine. Now, we'd probably give the magazine's Web site a shot: www.organicgardening.com.

Reprinted from The Pocket Change Investor© 2003, Marc Eisenson & Nancy Castleman

The Pocket Change Investor
The Secrets to Getting Ahead -- Even If You Have a Pile of Credit Card Bills, Hefty Mortgage Payments,
Loans Out on a Clunker or Two, & a Bad Case of the "I'm Tired of Living Payday to Payday" Blues.

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