Last updated on June 10th, 2020
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 creepy-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?
Well, I did nothing at all. The plants received neither sprays of Miracle Gro nor sprinklings of Osmocote as they had the previous year. In fact I employed no packaged fertilizers at all.
Instead, the raised bed was topped-off last winter with a thick layer of shredded leaves. The leaves 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. Healthy soil grows healthy plants — the kind of plants that can fend off bothersome insects.
Perhaps the companion plants I grew alongside the Brussels sprouts contributed as well to the pest-free crop. Onions are garlic may have thwarted the cabbage moth, whose hungry larvae can destroy an entire field 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 might lie 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 certain garden additives — even the so-called “organic” ones — do not mitigate trouble. They invite it.
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