According to Wikipedia, human agriculture arose independently in at least eleven regions of the old and new world dating back to at least 20,000 BCE. Use of irrigation, crop rotation, and fertilizers began in the Neolithic age, but were greatly refined and expanded over the last 200 years. The last 60 years is witness to the hugely accelerated mechanization of human agriculture, and the use of fossil-fuel derived synthetic fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides, as well as selective breeding, and genetic engineering across species.
Our gardens and our planet are coping with the hangover from chemicals used so liberally during the fevered enthusiasm of the Green Revolution – and in ever-increasing amounts today: the soil microbiome is depleted, waterways are polluted by runoff, beneficial insects and animals are struggling to survive the onslaught of toxins covering millions of acres of farmland, predators and weeds are developing resistance to the poisons, and humans are coping with a food-chain laden with endocrine-disrupting chemicals. Clearly, we need a better way to grow food and keep our crops safe from predation and disease, while balancing the needs of the ecosystems our farms and gardens coexist with. But is that even possible? How can we garden without poisons?
Beatrice Trum Hunter, in response to Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, wrote “Gardening without Poisons” in 1964 to answer exactly that question: “An aroused nation [after the publication of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring] is looking for new ways to protect plants from pests and diseases — methods based on an understanding of the forces of life at work in field and Garden. In this book, Beatrice Trum Hunter describes their methods, which you can apply in your garden today, and reveals the new knowledge which can lead to Gardening without Poisons.” – from the back cover of the book.
You might think that it would be outdated by now, but trust me, this classic is amazing in its breadth, depth and scope, and the techniques are exactly as useful now as they were 50 years ago! An enjoyable read as well. Ralph Waldo Emerson’s great-granddaughter Edith W. Gregg said: “A most interesting book, timely and valuable, I hope all garden clubs will order their members to read it.”
Love your garden, love the Earth, and learn to grow your food without poisoning them! The fun and success begin now!