Ecology and gaffer tape

Will a hard winter mean fewer pests this year? I’m not holding out much hope. It all depends whether you believe the path to redemption lies in ordered hygiene or dynamic balance. In favour of hygiene, the cold will have cleaned things up; a lot of aphids will have perished and leaves and roots harbouring disease will have been killed, thus breaking the disease-carrying bridge between seasons.

Unfortunately my experience of cold winters past is that any benefit will be short lived. Taking an ecological “balance” perspective, this is easily explained. Most pests that make a meal of our crops are also a meal for someone else: aphids are eaten by ladybirds, lacewing and hover fly larvae and parasitized by certain wasps, slugs are eaten by carabid beetles and toads and predated by nematodes. Red spider mites are controlled by the predatory mite phytoseiulus. Unfortunately these farmer friendly “beneficial” organisms will have also suffered in the cold; in fact they tend to be more affected by the cold than the pests (not only do many die, the survivors get dopey and less hungry).

Some pests always survive and, after a cold winter, there are fewer predators to keep them in check. As pests tend to get going sooner and breed faster, a cold winter might be expected to result in a higher population peak before the predators catch up. Hence cold winters may help the hygiene approach to pest management (as propounded by pesticide salesmen) but are not much help to those looking for balance.

8 responses to “Ecology and gaffer tape

  1. margaret pauffley

    I love curly kale and wish you included it in the boxes more often.

  2. Enjoying the recipe folder, I save time trawling through recipe books. Could you also give tips on how to store or freeze veg. I’ve just finished my brussell sprouts as I managed to save some. I try to waste as little as possible through the year and still manage to have veg in freezer for the week after Christmas or when coming back from a hoilday, without having to go to the supermarket.

  3. Have been getting a vegetable box for many years now and enjoyed seeing how much of the food was produced in the uk. I would like to see the return of this information. It was taken off for more room for recipes, if customers need more recipes I suggest they buy your excellent book, the list also explained what some of the more unusual vegetables are. I hope others are in agreement.

  4. i had never considered this important point – thanks for the info

  5. What happened to the bread options? the Rye and sourdough were delicious

  6. I would order a rye sourdough if you supplied bread in the south east, is the bread organic too ?
    As a gardener I get curious about your veg, F1’s or heritage? after munching a tasty pepper of yours I was tempted to save seed from it but didn’t know if it was an F1 or heritage?
    A lot of folk grow tomatoes, cucumbers and lettuce in the summer but don’t have space or the time for everything, maybe a box that excludes popularly grown things would be useful., just the extras we don’t have the space or time for ?

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