Pestilence and disease

Holidays, no matter how wonderful, take their toll. Two weeks in Melbourne was amazing and I’ve got lots of great pictures and posts to cover that over the next couple of days. But the wonderful/sinister side of eating out so often is that nutrition gets all out of whack – restaurants aren’t known for their endowment of green vegetables on the plate. Combined with not taking my super-immunity booster tonic while away and the recycled air of planes, I’ve spent the last three days sneezing, wheezing and whining. I hate colds.

A huge thanks to Malcolm Harker’s Immuno-Nurse, Kereru’s Cold Balm and my Florence Nightingale husband for getting me through this. Malcolm Harker‘s formulas are the wasp’s nipples and it’s a little wrong to admit it but I really like the taste. After a hideous year of colds and flus last year, I’ve been great since taking Immuno-Nurse (up until this little self-inflicted situation). And for those who object to the smell of Vicks – the Cold Balm is magic. It smells wonderful and is a beautifully-textured cream.

As much as I thoroughly recommend these products, they probably won’t do much to fight the other lurgies lurking at the bottom of my garden. The cabbage white fly numbers we were maintaining at a reasonable level by vigilantly squishing caterpillars on a daily basis, hit the up-curve while we were away and took out my cavolo nero crop.

This plague too was really bad management on my part – the plants down there don’t get enough light and were struggling. The healthier your plants, the less prone they are to attack. I hadn’t done enough to control the numbers and once those little vege-munchers reached critical mass, they just partied and partied on my kale and I lost the battle. Sometimes in organic gardening, you just have to admit defeat and move on.

And that little lesson illustrated some of the points in Sunday’s workshop on Pests, Weeds and Diseases with Colin. Ironically, I was too diseased to stay the whole afternoon and left before my sneezes really started pestering people. But the main points were:

—  Observation is the key to everything. You have to get out and look at what’s happening in your garden. And you have to act on your observations before it is too late and the thistles/aphids/whitefly/kikuyu take control.

—  Companion planting is great, encourage biodiversity but you need to experiment and observe. One little companion plant won’t protect your entire patch. There is no recipe on how many to plant because it is completely dependent on your own circumstances/environment.

—  Prevention is better than cure. Because there is no cure if your entire crop gets wiped out.

—  Weeds are often indicators of soil or environmental conditions. Find out what your weeds are telling you. Then build that knowledge into your long-term management strategy.

If you are serious about growing healthy vegetables well – you have to think long-term. Work on building up your skill set and your soil over years. It’s the same as working on your health. You learn to prepare better food, build up your immunity, get fit – all of these things take time. Gardening and health work wonderfully together. They’re long journeys but incredibly joyful, affirming and fulfilling ones.