Respectful Communications & Insect Cooperation
It is becoming generally accepted that organically grown plants produce more phytonutrients and anti-oxidants in response to stresses. For a plant, stresses include being nibbled by insects. As a defense, they then produce higher levels of cancer-fighting and heart-healthy protective compounds. A few insects are therefore our allies. We don’t want to eliminate insects, just to have a garden in balance.
We are taught that insects are bad or pests. It’s difficult to overcome this way of thinking. Disgust, repulsion, or fear of damage, loss, or imperfection is an attitude that causes millions of tons of pesticides to pollute the earth. Not only can we change our attitudes, we can develop relationships that are based on the intrinsic appreciation of the insects in our garden.
What about our own self-worth? Because you have learned to appreciate insects, is no reason to assume insects have the right to get away with everything in your garden. We can negotiate with them in an equal partnership. In business, the old style of sticking to a bottom line and never giving in has yielded to the newer style of win-win negotiations and mediation. Applied to your garden, this means that both you and the natural world would come out as winners. You must know your negotiation strengths, be principled, and be willing to be very firm.
Your negotiation strengths include making choices that deprive insects of their favorite meals, or increase their aversion to your garden, or inhibit them in some way. You might stop planting green lettuce, which slugs prefer, and only plant red-leafed varieties. Or you could run a contest with yours or the neighbor’s kids to see who can pick the most slugs, and then gently relocate them to a park with ducks. You might spray ground chili peppers and garlic on your houseplants, or use beneficial predatory insects outdoors. You might put your tomatoes in pots and grow them on the patio. The essence of this is that you can do the physical work of gardening, challenging the insects to make other choices, or create an environment that is not so inviting to them.
Or you can communicate with them, in an atmosphere of love, and create a more inviting environment elsewhere. In my first negotiations with slugs I recognized they needed to eat as well. They had mowed down every emerging shoot of every spring vegetable, and I had tried loving them and pleading with them unsuccessfully. I set up a small patch of their favorite vegetables in the corner, and offered to keep it growing all season. I also let them know that if they didn’t agree, there was always slug bait, but I loved them and would prefer not to resort to that. I kept my word, and they all moved over to their patch and stopped eating from mine. This contract continued with every small garden I have planted since, although it needed substantial amendments when I worked in an extensive community garden with a greenhouse.
You need to know your insects well. Let me know if you would like me to teach this class at your garden or local community garden: Communicating with Your Garden Plants and Insects: Cultivating an Atmosphere of Non-Violence in Your Back Yard. Or leave a comment below if you would like to discuss anything in this article. I enjoy supporting others to develop the love and other benefits of win-win negotiation with insects. Perhaps you would like to know about squash bugs, wireworms, happy ants in the kitchen, compassionate slugs, cooperative yellow jackets, unattracting mosquitoes, a friendly flying cockroach, centipede takeovers, and an educational experience where the teachers were Japanese beetles.
For a poem or poster about Talk with Your Garden,
click here, or a sample Garden Communications class, click here.