I Dreamed of Organic Gardening

By: Betsy Bearden

Hot summer days in Atlanta, Georgia, make it difficult for some of us to plant and maintain an organic garden. However, as a native to Atlanta, it is the first thing I think of when warm weather comes around. Finding the time and energy to keep those pesky insects from attacking our tender veggies without the use of harmful pesticides may seem a daunting task for some. It certainly is for me; but why would you want to approach it any other way? Don’t you just love having fresh veggies in the summer, especially tomatoes? There is nothing quite like the fresh, home-grown tomato.

Ever since I can remember, gardening has been a part of my life in one way or another. My first experience was around the age of five or six, when we visited my grandmother at her home in Mississippi. She had row upon row of yellow squash hidden beneath their flowered “skirts.” I always felt a little embarrassed to lift up the blossoms and peek beneath them, looking for that yellow-gold!

While walking between the rows of vegetables with the hot summer sun beating down upon my little blond head, I was suddenly dwarfed by the giant sunflowers. On the other side of the row, there were green beans growing. They had latched themselves onto twine that was attached to bamboo poles, and spiraled themselves up toward the sun. Birds were singing all around, and I pretended to be in some exotic world no one else knew of, except for me.

It was amazing to see how bell peppers, okra and eggplant grew. It certainly gave me a new appreciation for the vegetables in the produce section of our grocery store that had always appeared to “magically” be there when we needed them. But my favorite of all was the luscious, ripe red tomato. It would be years before I’d come to know about organic gardening, pesticides and something we here in the South have to deal with: the dreaded “nematodes.”

Since then, much has been learned along the way, simply through trial and error; error being the operative word in “learned.” If you would like, I can share what I have learned without getting too technical or boring on the wonderful subject of organic gardening. However, come to think of it, it’s been a long day, and exhaustion is setting in from working in the garden for the most part of it.

Sleep would be so good right about now. I’ll try not to drift off before telling you what I know. As I was saying, it is completely possible to grow a beautiful, healthy, organic garden without the use of harmful pesticides, and with the help of a few companions it could be more easily accomplished ... (Dozing off.)

… Friends to help me in the garden … yes, friends. Oh, if only I weren’t so tired! Let’s see, where were we? I could have Wally tilling up the soil, Linda, blasting the pesky insects with a water hose, Steven, building …  a moat around the raised bed castle, and Brenda, riding upon a dragonfly, floating gently downward … spreading the lime like stardust…

… Evening has fallen in the Kingdom of Hyssop. All the king’s subjects: Miss Garlic, the Tommy-To-Mato family, and Dame Spicy Red Pepper are all safely asleep in their large, raised beds. The royal knights, Comfrey and Dill, guard the fertile grounds. But what is that slimy, icky sound from beneath the soil. Someone is threatening the Tommy-To-Mato family. It’s the lowly Baron Nematode, the root-knotter! Baron Nematode, that wiggly little worm, is trying to get to the root of our luscious tomatoes, and will surely wreak havoc upon the harmony within our organic kingdom of Hyssop.

But galloping quickly over yon hill is one who is feared by most –even by the Duke of Diazinon. It is the evil Lord Sevin. He has come to do battle with Baron Nematode; to swiftly cut him down with his poison. Lord Sevin will surely kill Baron Nematode, but he will also make us sick, as well. He can pollute the water in the moat around the raised bed castle, making all the birds that drink from it, as well as all the good insects in the kingdom, very sick. Not to mention the royal hounds, Yogi and Rocky, who live within our kingdom and lazily graze on the grass around the moat.

Raising his hand, Lord Sevin takes aim to spread his pollution as the tomatoes shiver with fright and rattle their gilded cages. “Save us, please-someone save us. We had rather be limed than slimed!”

Awakened by the commotion, and calling upon their regal stallion, Horsetail, Queen Marigold and King Nasturtium show up and plant themselves firmly into the soil. “Eat my dust, Sevin!” cried King Nasturtium, “you are not welcome here! Be gone from this place.”

Crying out from beneath the soil, Baron Nematode begs Queen Marigold for mercy; to spare his life. “I am here to protect my subjects from you, you little parasite. No mercy for you! Be gone!” she cried.

Every root-knotter nematode within the kingdom of Hyssop slivered for the hills, because they knew they could not do battle against the powerful root protecting properties Queen Marigold and King Nasturtium held within themselves.

Rushing in to assist the King and Queen was Princess Dawn and her constant companions Miss Garlic, and Dame Spicy Red Pepper. “We got together and mixed it up to protect all the subjects who dwell above the soil,” she said. “By spritzing our contents, in a very lady-like manner of course, on all the little veggies, no pesky bug, slug, or thug will stand a chance! Especially due to the odiferous nature of Miss Garlic, here.” Miss Garlic reared her platinum head and shot Princess Dawn a rather nasty look.

“Now, now-You know I don’t mean any disrespect to you Miss Garlic, honey, but after all, you do smell, cute as you are, mind you. And Dame Spicy Red Pepper, well! Not too many will give you a second chance after they have taken a big honkin’ bite of you!” said Princess Dawn. “So, I say let’s celebrate; the Tommy-To-Mato family is safe; as well as all other subjects in the Kingdom of Hyssop; and they will be organically sound to be eaten when the time comes!”

But keeping pesky pests away is a never-ending job. Upon hearing the sound of a cage rattling in the background, Princess Dawn said “Oh dear. Oh dear, dear!”  And with a spritz, she was off …


Betsy Bearden is a creative writer and the author of a self-published cookbook, Normal People, Eat Tofu, Too. She has worked as a volunteer chef, and cooking instructor for The Kroger School of Cooking; as a reporter for The Paulding Neighbor Newspaper; has nine published articles in State-by-State Gardening; and is a regular contributor to Life Grocery’s Life Line Newsletter. You can reach her at: