I CELEBRATED yesterday’s glorious sunshine and rare-for-November warmth by harvesting my winter’s supply of Brussels sprouts. What a difference from last year’s crop! Then, stalks, leaves and sprouts were so infested with cabbage worms that I had to throw the plants out. This year, however, no such creep-crawlies were present at all. What did I do this go-round that resulted in the beautiful, tight-leaved, pest-free sprouts you see pictured up top?
Instead, the raised bed was topped-off last winter with a thick layer of shredded leaves. These by spring had decomposed into Nature’s perfect soil: leaf mold. Leaf mold, as any ancient forest will tell you, is the key to soil health. And it is healthy soil which grows healthy plants — those which can fend off bothersome insects.
Perhaps the companion plants I grew alongside the Brussels sprouts contributed to healthy conditions, too. Here onions and garlic thwarted the cabbage moth, whose hungry larvae can destroy entire fields of Brassica.
You can learn, as I have, two powerful lessons here, no matter which crops you intend to grow next summer. First, top your beds with a thick layer of shredded leaves now. Next, plant garlic along the perimeter of your beds before the ground freezes. Between these two lies the answer to garden bounty — the kind our ancestors depended upon for survival long before the introduction of packaged soil amendments and pesticides. I swear that these garden chemicals — even the so-called “organic” ones — do not mitigate trouble. They invite it.
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