My Garden is a Killing Field

11 May

I like to think I’m a good person. I try to be kind to children and small animals. And I kind of believe in karma.

It was therefore highly distressing when I saw bugs on one of my zucchini plants this morning. Lots of bugs. The bugs were gray and black and were actually kind of pretty (bugs don’t creep me out), but I suspected they weren’t a good sign. Sure enough, they are, appropriately named, squash bugs.

Apparently there is no viable organic option to getting rid of them other than picking them off and killing them by hand.

I discussed the problem with Michael. I really don’t like killing anything, even bugs. I’m the woman who carries out spiders by one leg and flings them out the back door without flinching.

Michael’s solution: put the bugs in a plastic container and carry them down the alley and let them go. (Don’t worry, no one else around here is crazy enough to try and garden in Texas.)

I liked his idea. Donning latex gloves, I carried my small, clear container to the garden. It was worse than I thought. The bugs were on both zucchini plants and on three acorn squash plants. Even worse, some of the leaves had squash bug eggs underneath.

Nature is cruel. I’m a part of nature. The bugs were killing my zucchini.

I started squashing them.

I did the best I could but there were a lot of bugs–and a LOT of eggs, which I tried to smush off the leaves as well. The eggs were strangely fascinating, bronze colored and uniformly laid.

It only took about five minutes after the carnage for the guilt to set in. I had just killed, with my latex covered hands, living things.

My only justification is knowing that last year all three of my zucchini plants died within two days. Their deaths were swift and their loss was strongly felt in my kitchen. And my stomach.

Call it revenge if you must.

I have a feeling I haven’t seen the last of the squash bugs. I know I didn’t kill them all or destroy all the eggs. And though I write about this in jest, I actually do feel guilty for killing the bugs. I realize if I resorted to chemicals to get rid of them it would be the same thing, but there is something not right about smashing a tiny creature between your fingers and killing it, even if it is for the greater good.

Michael just laughs at my guilt and tells me we wouldn’t have anything to eat if we let the pests take over.

Who knew gardening could cause such guilt and a moral dilemma, forcing me to choose between the things I planted and the insects who depend on them for life, and turning my fecund haven of nourishment into a killing field of unwanted pests?

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12 Responses to “My Garden is a Killing Field”

  1. Linda B 05/11/2012 at 5:41 PM #

    Squash is loved, unfortunately by more than we humans. Sure hope you get a good harvest after your unsatisfying bout with bug squashing.

    • Mind Margins 05/11/2012 at 7:08 PM #

      Thanks, me, too. The zucchini is growing, and so is the acorn squash, but I’m not kidding when I say that last summer ALL my squash plants died within two days. It was amazing.

  2. Fourth Generation Farm Wife 05/13/2012 at 8:44 PM #

    Wow, no fun! The best organic solution is to figure out how you can get a lot of birds in your yard.

    • Mind Margins 05/13/2012 at 9:19 PM #

      We have tons of birds! I’ve seen ladybugs, too. I think this is a particularly bad year for bugs since we had such a mild winter. Very frustrating.

  3. Wicked Gardener 05/14/2012 at 9:54 PM #

    I’ve also had trouble with the wildlife in my garden vs the plants. Good to know I’m not the only one!

    • Mind Margins 05/14/2012 at 10:59 PM #

      Same here, though it is frustrating nevertheless.

  4. gardeninacity 06/05/2012 at 10:58 PM #

    You did the right thing. Just remember that bugs are not sentimental about doing away with other bugs. Also, if those squash bugs were many times your size, they would not hesitate to do away with you. Anyway, they would if they thought you were a squash. In my experience, if you stay away from the pesticides eventually the bugs will keep each other in check.

    • Mind Margins/Run Nature 06/06/2012 at 8:43 AM #

      I know you’re right, and I’ve actually toughened up since I wrote the post. I did lose the battle, however, and despite my best efforts, the bugs destroyed all the squash. Apparently they did a number on everyone’s squash this year, and most of my friends who have gardens lost all their plants as well.

  5. thegracefulgardener 07/04/2012 at 6:02 PM #

    I just view it as the circle of life–a bugs life that is….good luck with your squash.Bugs are devouring my rose blooms right now, Japanese beetles, so I know how frustrating it can be.

    • Mind Margins/Run Nature 07/04/2012 at 8:29 PM #

      Yes, it’s just the way things are. Sorry to hear about your roses. Thanks for visiting!

  6. sensiblegardening 08/16/2012 at 10:48 AM #

    Yes, I know how you feel. When I get outbreaks of aphids on the roses I squish them as well as we never use pesticides. I feel like a big mean giant.

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