|This is so inadequate and textbookish,|
but it is a start for the unthinking thralls of Scott's Lawn and Garden,
the despairing slaves of the German chemical industry.
I found a Sharon Lovejoy book at Cracker Barrel and paged through it quickly to check about adding it to my list. Two items alone made it worthwhile to purchase later. One was a crow trap for the corn patch. The other described the effect of a pile of leaves left to rot.
Lovejoy combines extensive observation and experience with research to get a lot of worthwhile content on each page. One brief section noted the effect of rotting leaves. They foster the growth of bugs that prey on other bugs - and I forget which. By design, the presence of bugs will attract birds who feed on them.
Gardening books have been one-dimensional at their worst and two-dimensional at their best. The new emphasis on soil microbiology and its support of the food chain has changed this, so gardeners can see and foster the three-dimensional approach. Everything matters, but the foundation is the first part of the effort - feeding the microbes.
Food Attracts the Eater
One principle is simple. The food attracts the eater and denying food keeps the eater from settling down for a meal. When I put together a small pond, a dragonfly showed up - as if by magic. Dragonflies love still water and the life below and above that water. Below - the dragonfly nymphs devour their food. Above, they dart around and capture the quickest creatures.
We always want to rake up the leaves, haul away the cut grass, yank the weeds, and throw away the rotting wood. Each is a component in feeding bacteria, mold, micro-organisms, and the larger creatures.
One book wrote up what I observed - put down wood mulch and the spiders show up to cast their webs and feed on insects. As soon as it warmed up - before the snow - the silken threads were showing on the rose bushes. They will return because I use no sprays at all in the garden or yard. Why kill the predators of the bugs when the Creator has this all sorted out already?
We all know that a lot of food has to be ready for five or fifty people to come over. If we want them to stay, the food supply has to be increased. Our helper wants to take away the maple leaves resting on the rose garden mulch. Instead I am going to bet that the leaves will be gone soon enough, devoured by the soil creatures below. They will digest all the mulch in time, but leave behind a mass of fungi, earthworms, bacteria, protozoa, springtails, sowbugs, centipedes, and millipedes.
That is why many advocate leaving rotting logs along the perimeter of the garden. Queen Elizabeth does the same, encouraging fungi in her private gardens (forbidding all inorganic treatments). The infinite dependencies of the soil begin with fungus, the ultimate decomposer and transporter of nutrition.
This management goes on without our thinking about it, although we can enhance the effect with more organics, more native plants, more weeds, and more mulch. We also also block as much as possible with inorganic fertilizer, herbicides, insecticides, and fungicides. And yet, in our all foolishness, the power of God's Creation bursts through.
Our paltry planning is nothing compared to God's management. We cannot summon a robin or order a preying mantis to show up, but we can entice, nurture, feed, and water these helpful creatures. The less we manage with human wisdom, the more God manages with divine wisdom and power.
That should carry over to the work of the Christian Church, but we have too few farmers and gardeners today. Seminarians should be required to build a compost pile, garden, and bird watch. For the summer they could be required to study insects and arthropods. No one should graduate with an MDiv without
- knowing what a springtail does,
- reading An Agricultural Testament,
- or growing a garden without the 'cides.
- "Have we planted the Seed, the living Word, and watered it?
- Have we taken the time to dig it and dung it?"
- Have we remembered Who gives the growth?"