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RE: Pill bugs/sow bugs

Doug Green of Simple Gifts Farm (www.simplegiftsfarm.com) used to distribute
a free newsletter (bless his heart) where gardeners would write in questions
and he'd give answers.  (His newsletter is still available tho it costs some
amount of $$/yr.)  Thought I'd quote his answer here to a gardener's exact
same question; you'll see he's quite passionate about the subject. (And
since I'm late to reply, hope this isn't repetitive.) Also, this is rather
long and, as Doug warns, is a soapbox event.

"Bear with me folks - this question hits on some of my main gardening themes
... Sow bugs. Mostly these roly-poly critters hide under plant debris and
rocks and consume dead and dying organic matter. Yes, they do occasionally
snack on emerging tender seedling shoots or tender feeder roots, especially
in potted plants. On the whole though, they are part of the scavenger crew
working to clean up and recycle the garden debris. They are not eating holes
in your plants. Something else is. You need them to go away. Why? They
aren't hurting anything and they are doing you a favour by cleaning up your
garden and recycling organic matter into fertilizer. I know they can use a
publicity agent 'cause they aren't great looking but other than that what do
you have against them? Can you use Sevin? Sure you can...." [Diann note:
here I have removed a long paragraph on the consequences of using this
chemical. Forgive me, Doug. Anyone who would like that part can email me
separately, unless Doug is mad for being quoted without permission.]

"So - yes, you can kill sowbugs with Sevin (Carbaryl) but I surely wouldn't
want to. Now - soapbox alert here! :-) let me make a few points worth making
in the garden. Identifying problems is a major part of gardening and one of
the hardest things to do. I hope the writer of this note doesn't take my
comments to heart because I do tend to non-chemical view of gardening life
(as most of you know by now);-)

If you want to garden, you're going to have to study insect life. Gardening
is a participation sport - you're participating *with* Mother Nature here -
you're not just putting something into a dead bit of ground and aiming magic
bullets at it to make it grow. Sooner or later, you're going to run out of
magic bullets and your garden will have problems coming out its ears. If you
don't take the time to figure out what is doing the damage, then you are
likely making a mistake. The garden is more alive than you are and any
chemical you use in that garden will have unintended consequences. For
example - another reader this week identified a harmless spider as the pest
chewing entire leaves from a plant. Spiders don't chew entire leaves off
rose bushes. Something else did. Don't blame any insect just because you can
see it! :-) You're likely blaming the wrong guy just as our sow-bug writer
and spider writer did this week. I never control an insect unless I actually
catch it in the act of eating my plant. Invariably, I'll get the wrong one.
As a consequence, I rarely control any insect because the predators do it
for me. I rarely control any insect in my garden unless it is decimating a
plant and I mean decimating not just chewing some holes in it. I know that
for every bug that is eating my plant - there's about 25 out there looking
to eat that plant-eating bug. Hey, it's a war zone of insects and most of
them are on my side. I have just have to let them do their thing. When we
speak of unintended consequences, you see --- If I get rid of the aphids,
hummingbirds don't visit my garden. If I get rid of the slugs - toads stay
away. If I get rid of the sowbugs, songbirds leave. If I get rid of the
spring flies on my stone farmhouse, early bluebirds don't come. It's a cycle
and its nature. I repeat - you have to work with Mother Nature - not against
her. Don't create unintended consequences in your garden. Getting off
soapbox now. :-)  "

<<end of quote>>

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