During the last two decades, the attitude of most Americans toward bugs, diseases and chemical controls has undergone quite a change. It used to be the common feeling that the only good bug was a dead bug—that with modern super-strong chemicals it was just a matter of time before insects, germs and other pests were eradicated from the face of the Earth.
Of course, that didn't happen. In fact, reports began to appear suggesting that some manufactured miracle cures' were creating more problems than they were solving. Rachel Carson wrote her landmark study, Silent Spiring, about the effects of DDT and other chemicals on the environment. People began paying more attention to the organic gardeners and farmers, some of them turned the tables on the advocates of chemicals by demanding that manufactured pesticides, herbicides and other unnatural substances be eradicated from the face of the Earth.
The verbal battles between the users of chemicals and promoters of the organic approach have had some useful results. Many discoveries have been made and many new products have come on the market that have made vegetable gardening much easier for the amateur gardener. There are still some gardeners— not many to be sure—who run for the spray can every time they see a bug. And there are some strict disciples of the organic method who swear that all chemicals are dangerous—hazardous to the lives of plants and animals alike. But most gardeners fall somewhere in between these two extremes. There are in fact wide gradations of toxicity and effectiveness among chemicals. Some of them, like chlordane, are quite powerful and long-lasting. Others, like malathion, are relatively mild and last about a week. But all chemicals are dangerous to some degree and need to be handled with care.
In this chapter we outline contrasting methods of pest management, involving both organic and chemical approaches. For the most part, they're more complimentary than contrasting, and most gardeners happily make selective use of both. We take the view that organic methods are always to be preferred, and that resort should only be had to chemicals where the pest problem is seriously out of hand.
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