and gardens. I got to thinking about this while dealing with squash bugs, which had I not gone to check the winter squash yesterday, almost won this round. Thankfully, my nose has decided that the smell is tolerable (except I cannot get it off my hands). They may still win the round.
In any case, they probably overwintered in some garden debris on the slope that I didn’t adequately clean up. Cleaning up the garden is one of the most critical parts of keeping the bug population under control. Squash bugs, along with several others, do not die when sprayed with most of the insecticides that you can use and not kill off everything else. Clean gardens give one an edge on the ever growing number of bugs which cannot be controlled unless you use expensive amounts of chemicals. (or spend hours each day hand-picking)
Now the best way to clean a garden and its soil is fire. Channelling my inner medievalist here, I can come up with any number of illuminations for manuscripts that show the peasants burning off their fields. The Native Americans practiced fire agriculture on a massive scale, a continental scale. So did the colonists. So do farmers in most other countries.
Now, I’ll admit that playing with fire, is well…playing with fire. There are many areas of the US where it would be criminally stupid to burn off a field. More than criminally stupid, it might well be homicide. Anyone burning a field west of the Mississippi probably ought to be run out of town.
And yes, doing it on a massive scale in the rainforests is a bad idea. But that has more to do with using it to clear new ground. Going back to my medieval peasants, they were using it to clean intensively used ground in densely populated areas.
It would be nice if that tool in our gardening tool collection wasn’t completely off limits. Or as close to off limits as it comes. Yes, of course, you can get a burn permit for certain days (for a hefty fee) for a brush pile. But what you can’t do is burn a section of ground. We have developed a seriously weird mentality when it comes to fire in our society, an absolute terror of it. This terror may (I’m not qualified to say, but the argument seems sound) contribute to extremely hot and destructive wildfires. It probably also helps to create gardens loaded with disease and bugs in climates such as New England’s.
Not mind, you that our vegetable garden is not set up to allow it to be burned off (neither the peach tree, or the power lines…or that pesky thing called The House would appreciate it) so it is a moot point. Still, in New England, if I was setting up a big garden again, I think I’d like to build that option in, regardless of the legality.