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Ensuring life in the garden, and beyond

Danger! Roaring sounds begin. Great wheels — then blades — begin turning, chopping. Run! Crawl! Hop, if you can! Scurry into fern clumps, between ti leaf stalks. Dive into underbrush, burrow into flowerpots and beds, in crevices below roots. Fly, if blessed with wings, into high boughs. Yeow… the roar ends, but now a whine of whacking as a killing stalk whirrs close and closer into the borders where some cranny of safety might be found.

The onslaught ends…for now.

Until the killing mists are sprayed, the hand chopping begins. Until the poison baits are spread and hung. Hurry! There may yet be time for some to escape…

No, this is not some scary movie scenario but a regular event in our home gardens. Since few of the spaces surrounding our Kauai homes are naturalized, being planted with lawn space and garden beds, all the “critters” who live in these habitats are sorely at risk during each lawn and garden service and tree trim, plus homeowner spur-of-the-moment garden pest controlling.

When grass was cut with scythes and push mowers, there was at least a fair chance of survival for the wild things. But with today’s electric and riding mowers, weed-whackers and leaf-blowers, it’s a case of “mayhem and gore.”

I hate to think of how many ants, beetles, leaf- and grasshoppers, praying mantises, ladybugs, frogs and toads, snails and slugs, worms and slow-on-the draw geckos and anoles, and mice get murdered during each lawn mowing and weed-whack. And this murder in the garden continues during trimming, chopping and spraying, when bees, butterflies and all manner of flying insects, if not birds, fall prey (along with the fruit flies and mosquitoes).

It’s definitely a continuing case of “(wo)man vs. nature,” rooted back many centuries to when roaming bands of humans settled down and women began cultivating grains and making sure enough of their crop came to harvest to feed their families. Then we humans eventually multiplied to the point where surveillance and hands-on control plus scarecrows were not effective enough. We left natural neem and water-dousing far behind and invented chemical controls, poisons that bear small-print warnings along with the familiar skull-&-crossbones symbol.

Many gardeners who pay extra to “eat organic” are still buying “killer” products to apply in their yards and vegetable gardens, ignoring the fact that there are now available “organic” compounds that can address a myriad of sod, plant and tree attacks. The ways that these control don’t cause ongoing damage and devastation — in fact, don’t backfire when the residue from harmful chemicals eventually boomerangs back to hurt the users.

In today’s world, where we as individuals often feel we have so little control over anything but ourselves and our own personal actions, this is one general control for upholding all life we can put into place in our home surroundings. And this can be extended to inside our homes as well as out.

There are hand-held weed-diggers, liquid soaps, neem sprays, basil and lavender cleaners as well the natural defense given off by some plants and herbs themselves. Years ago, I learned that an ashtray of old cigarette butts (used tobacco — not smoked by this writer) could be soaked in a quart of water to make an effective natural spray to prevent leaf thrips and protect tender flowers such as roses. There are many other natural “secrets” we can share, and the invitation stands, Dear Readers, for you to do so, as well as give a new and more natural way a try if you have not done so already. For the sake of yourself and your family. For the sake of the planet.

Right now, my husband and I are celebrating a noticeable and charming ballet of bright monarch butterflies dancing all about the butterfly garden we planted some months ago. There is constant brilliant movement to intrigue us beyond the windows of our garden and porch screens, with the “anchor” plant being the relative of milkweed known as “crown flower” here in Hawaii. To add to the color and swirl, the pots of heather and flowering coleus plants have attracted a buzz of bees — hopefully not too brain-dead from glyphosates acquired elsewhere to make it back to their hives.

To be sure, we are not spraying or trying to control anything near the butterfly nursery. Certain leaves in the bush’s tiers are holey and ragged from the munching of the striped caterpillar stage of the butterfly. But this translates to mean that — Wow! — the next thing to be found is a jeweled chrysalis. This “decoration” that insures emergence of a new orange-&-black-spotted beauty to dance aloft through its numbered days in the scheme of the incredible mystery of life far outshines manmade tinsel and glitter.


Dawn Fraser Kawahara, author and poet, made her home on Kauai in the 1980s. She and her husband, a retired biology teacher, share the passion of nature and traveling to far-away places. The writer’s newly released memoir and travel tale “Burma Banyan” and other books may be found in local outlets and on Amazon. For further information, email
Source: The Garden Island

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