It is certainly more complicated!
Maintaining the natural balance of a totally organic orchard-cum-garden is, as I have learnt over the last 16 years, not an easy task as everything, aside from unavoidable hard labour, actively depends on what nature decides to throw at you next!
Rain, drought, snow, hailstones, too much cold, too much heat, all bring their own challenges and headaches and, with totally unpredictable climate change increasingly impacting every single aspect right from sowing to harvesting, each and every single day is brim full of surprises and regrettably, not all of them are nice ones.
Take this year in the mountains close to the AJK border: winter dragged on and on so the planting time was six weeks late and then, just as the seedlings were at their most vulnerable stage and fruit blossom was in full bloom, along came a massive hailstorm and ‘pasted’ most things beyond all recognition. While some vegetable and herb seeds could be re-sown, nothing could be done about the lost fruit blossom other than pray that later flowering species would fruit enough to at least help fill the gap.
Then, just as the re-sown seedlings were getting established, along came heat and drought so most of those failed too, and then, as if this wasn’t enough, damp, not rain, brought out the snails in burgeoning numbers. Before they could be brought under organic control — as in hand collect the blighters, drown the little ones in hot water and cook the big ones which are, I had them tested, delectably edible — they made major inroads in to the seedlings that were left. This, as it happens, is all part and parcel of maintaining strict organic conditions but, I must admit, that this year the snail population is way out of hand.
In a ‘normal’ year, the snails are mostly gobbled up by the large variety of birds who are encouraged, year round, to police the premises and take care of as many predators as they can: These birds, which are many, also act as an early warning system for snakes as they let rip with the loudest alarm calls imaginable, if one of these dreaded monsters dares to invade ‘their’ territory from which they immediately attempt, by virtue of dive-bombing, to drive it away.
Maintaining organic conditions is not just a matter of letting things be. It is important to have an understanding of how plant species interact with each other and which plants actively work to keep other plant species healthy and most importantly, learning how to balance ‘good’ and ‘bad’ insects that can, if left uncontrolled, decimate crops beyond hope of salvation.
Growing organic is, in some ways, more complicated and certainly more time consuming than cultivating with the ‘help’ of chemical interventions but the rewards are far greater and certainly safer to eat! — Miriam Zamani