A chemical-free convert

Like many gardeners, I used to rely on chemicals to keep bugs and weeds at bay. I zapped lily beetles with Sevin, and kept my flagstone path free of grass with a shot of Weed-Be-Gon.

But I began to question this approach. What if everybody in my neighborhood used chemicals as often as I did? Multiply that by hundreds of thousands of neighborhoods. It gives one pause.

On top of this, I didn't like the results. Because the sprays can't tell a bad bug from a beneficial one, I was eradicating them all indiscriminately. I was also worried about chemicals on my hands or clothes when I held my young son.

So I stopped spraying and gravitated to organic gardening by default. OK, I cheat a little with my roses. But serious organic gardeners, like Rosalind Creasy in the cover story, can offer a lifetime of experience when it comes to chemical-free cultivating.

Early on, I laboriously plucked beetles off the Asian lilies by hand. Then I thought, "Why try to grow plants that won't survive without chemical intervention?" At season's end, I dug up the lilies and burned every last stalk. I now stick to plants that don't need so much coddling.

The same reasoning could apply to lawns. Turf grasses rely on an overabundance of water, fertilizer, and gasoline-powered equipment. Some gardeners stay away from four-step programs like Scott's and are content with a less than picture-perfect lawn. In my yard, grass is anything that looks green when cut to three inches.

Whether your garden is a window box or several acres, your chemical dependancy makes a difference to the quality of everyone's water and soil.

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