Last week my kale was flourishing. We were picking leaves and enjoying it regularly, raw in salads, sauteed with many meals.
We went away camping for a few days and the next time I looked at the kale, it looked like this:
Flea beetles! And not just a few, but a rabid infestation. I’m normally a “live and let live” gardener. I have enough space to allow a few bugs and critters to help themselves. This, however, was plainly out of control.
My first thought was to get rid of the diseased kale plants, but a little voice in the back of my mind urged me to do some online searching first. Wow, was I ever glad I didn’t follow my instinct! Those hungry flea beetles would have looked for something else to munch on, and they’re not overly picky. They’d be happy to invade my potatoes (I have over 100 plants), tomatoes (35 plants), eggplant (4 plants), or peppers. They would also enjoy the carrots… Yeah, they’d basically wipe out everything in my garden.
And if I let them eat all our food? Their eggs will over-winter and they’d be back in even greater numbers next year.
Obviously they needed to be stopped. Killed.
What’s an organic gardener to do?
Vacuum the bugs off? But there were millions! (I honestly don’t think I’m kidding. The kale bed is 4′ x 12′ in size.)
I tried this insecticidal soap recipe: 2 parts rubbing alcohol, 5 parts water, 1 tablespoon dish soap. Anyone see the problem with that recipe? Yeah. How much is it supposed to yield? I took a stab at deciding it would work in a one liter (one quart) spray bottle, prepared the mix, and sprayed it all over my kale patch several times (I had to mix more).
Perhaps there were fewer flea beetles. Perhaps not.
Time for the big guns. Time to kill them no matter the cost. Organic or not.
The lady at the garden center asked my comfort level with chemicals. I said, “I prefer organic, but I have to kill them. I don’t think I have a choice.” She told me that I would need rotenone. So I bought some.
Hubby looked it up and told me it was considered an organic insecticide, pesticide, and piscicide (fish poison). Organic? With all the warning labels on it? It’s classed as “moderately hazardous.” Deliberate ingestion can be fatal.
Yes, I put on a mask and gloves before sprinkling the powder all over the kale patch, then washed thoroughly afterward.
But it made me think about the organic label on produce in the supermarket. Just because it’s labeled organic doesn’t mean it’s been grown in a natural way. There are plenty of concoctions that are classed organic and yet are designed to kill bugs. The rotenone label says the food is safe to eat in six days.
Eater beware. Unless you grow your food yourself, you don’t know what’s been used on it.
For the record, this blog is moving to a mostly once-a-week posting schedule, on Fridays. I may add a Tuesday post from time to time, but the fact is, I have three books due in the next eleven months, and my blogging time is limited!