It never ceases to amaze me during these hot and dry Texas summers just how adaptable and tough weeds are.  Temperatures over 100 degrees, no rain for over a month, and the weeds are lookin’ good!

Adaptability is what weeds are all about.  Just like all other living things, weeds adapt to environmental conditions in order to ensure their survival.  And in the very worst of times the actual weed may disappear but the weed seeds may be hiding out in the ground, waiting for optimal conditions to come their way.

Have you ever noticed a large, natural, undisturbed area that was relatively weed-free and left alone to do its own thing?  Many times these areas are wildscapes… little or nothing has been done to alter nature’s course.  There may be wildflowers and trees native to the area that provide food and shelter for wildlife.  Then, here comes “progress” in the form of surveying and heavy equipment moving in to transform the natural, wildscape area into an apartment complex, large store, or parking lot.  Once the heavy equipment begins to tear up the ground here come the weeds, some of them 4-5 feet high.  The disturbance to the natural order of soil layering and a bit of rain will bring all those dormant weed seeds to life, many of them waiting years for just the right conditions.

The same thing happens when someone decides to plant a garden then goes gung-ho at the ground with a rototiller.   A nice, relatively weed-free grassy area has the soil turned topsy-turvy, bringing all those dormant weed seeds near the surface where warm sunlight and adequate moisture provide just the right elements to ensure sprouting.  And the gardener’s weed nightmare begins.

Nature has a way of soil layering that is right and as it should be.  We think we can do it better.  Think again.


Wild, undisturbed meadow with native wildflowers

arlington sign

An apartment complex will soon be built. Notice the tall weeds.

mccommas before 1

McCommas Bluff Nature Preserve in Dallas, Texas on April 19, 2014

mccommas after 1

The same picture view as above, taken on February 8, 2015. I wonder what this mess looks like after the weed seeds germinated and took hold?

The Power of Beneficial Insects

An organic and sustainable garden/landscape/farming operation can take care of itself. Mother Nature has crime fighters that are ready, willing, and very much able to take bad bugs down.

It is extremely rare for me to have any type of pest or disease problem.  I’ve been gardening organically since the late 1980’s, and here at the herb farm since 1996 when we bought the property.  The longer someone grows organically the less likely they are to have a problem, but last year my cucumber vines developed a big pest problem.  Within just a few days my cucumber vines went from lush and green to this:

Lots of dead and dying leaves… a very sad sight

I have so few problems with pests that I don’t know a mite from an aphid, so I can’t tell you what attacked my cucumber vines.  It was something almost microscopic because I couldn’t really see any bad guys, but their damage was painfully evident.

I don’t use any sprays or pest deterrents at all, not even those labeled organic.  I let nature take its course and I’m prepared to lose a crop if that’s the course nature wants to take. Even though the damage was severe I was fairly certain that justice would prevail and the many beneficial insects I have around here would come to my rescue.  So I kept my fingers crossed, my camera ready, and within a day or two the troops came to my rescue.  Lady bugs (actually lady beetles), green lacewings, dragonflies, house flies, and others I couldn’t identify swooped in to help me out!

 Lady beetles to the rescue!

These pictures were taken over a period of 18 days.  From the severe damage shown in the first picture to the new growth and restored health in the picture just above, Mother Nature fixed the problem.  I did nothing except document the process with photos.

I have had people tell me they are organic unless they have a bug or disease problem.  If you spray, dust, or apply pesticide in any way at any time you are NOT organic. Furthermore, not only are you killing the bad bugs but you are also killing the good bugs that kill the bad bugs!  And the use of chemical fertilizer applied to the soil or plants themselves is not organic either.

Organic growing is not an overnight solution.  It takes time, it takes patience, and it takes the understanding that at some point (usually within the first couple years of swearing off pesticides) you will lose a crop to bugs.  But don’t give in. Giving in will take you back to the beginning of your organic journey.  Be patient and be kind to the beneficial insects that will make the journey worthwhile.   Trust me.

What is organic? What is sustainable? What is natural?

Or-gan-ic (adj.) – (1) Of, marked by, or involving the use of fertilizers or pesticides that are strictly of animal or vegetable origin; (2) Raised or conducted without the use of drugs, hormones, or synthetic chemicals; (3) Simple, healthful, and close to nature.

Sus-tain-a-ble (adj.) – (1) Capable of being maintained at a steady level without exhausting natural resources or causing severe ecological damage; (2) Capable of being continued with minimal long-term effect on the environment.

Nat-u-ral (adj.) – (1) Present in or produced by nature; (2) Of, relating to, or concerning nature; (3) Faithfully representing nature or life.