Southern Agrarianism and the culture of the Old South

Gardening Like Your Life Depends On It

Sevin_IMG_3195For most of my life, I have viewed my gardening as a thoroughly enjoyable hobby. It was just a natural part of the Southern Agrarian lifestyle that is so much a part of me. My garden has not felt the bitter taste of pesticides, and the fertilizers have been various forms of organic compost. Pest control has been a combination of physically removing bugs, organic methods, and being resigned to the fact that a portion of the crops would be destroyed by pests. It was an enjoyable way to live, and it shielded me from the ancient reason for raising food crops – simple survival. It was – and is – a great and relaxing way to live, but that has partly come to an end.

While I still have not used any pesticides on the garden, I have begun stocking up on Sevin dust and other pesticides. Planting according to a planned schedule now takes a much higher priority than “I’ll try to get to it this weekend.”

The garden has begun to take on the role of Provider of Food … for real. What if my family had to depend on what we grow in the garden and the chicken coop (soon to be joined by some geese)? What if our sole source of water for the plants and the poultry – and for us – were the hand pump well in the back? These are matters that our ancestors took for granted – that was just the way life was. Could it be that way once again? In America? In the Twenty-First Century? Anyone paying attention to world events would have to answer, “yes”.

For now, I continue to abstain from the use of chemical pesticides; however, pesticide-free organic gardening is really more of a luxury than a necessity. If “push comes to shove” and providing my family with good wholesome food depends in large part on what the garden produces, I won’t feel obliged to “share” with the bugs and the birds and the squirrels and the coons, and I won’t be concerned about careful use of pesticides, and I will take a far less relaxed attitude about getting the maximum yield from the garden.

The world is changing rapidly and becoming very unstable. Those who follow the Southern Agrarian philosophy can take great comfort in being close to the land in times like this.


  1. M Lifgren

    If you haven’t used pesticides, the balance between pests and their preditors should be pretty good. By using Sevin you will be damaging that balance. Lightweight row cover would be a less toxic solution. Have you watched the Back To Eden film on YouTube? You will be doing yourself and your land a disservice by using pesticides. There are always beneficial, nontoxic solutions. Feed the soil and keep your plants truly healthy.

    • Stephen Clay McGehee

      M Lifgren,
      The situation here is a bit different than what you may be thinking of. This page shows what the primary garden section looks like. I have several other garden areas that are not raised bed, but what I grow there is relatively pest free (pineapples, sweet potatoes, and Seminole Pumpkins). The raised bed contains no “soil” – only a growing mixture described in the links at the top of the page. The idea of maintaining a “balance” might apply after many years of use, but that is only theory at this point. For example, I learned that because I was using a growing mixture rather than soil, it did not contain the bacteria that legumes require to really produce well. I had to add it to the soil in order to get beans to produce in a decent quantity.

      I’ve seen the Back To Eden video and gone over the web site in some detail. Specifically, we were looking at that as a method to use in West Africa (and some version of it might end up being used – too early to tell at this point). Every garden is different though – mainly based on its location. This specific part of Florida has problems – and blessings – that are probably found nowhere else. The key to successful gardening is to know what works for you in your specific location.

      At this point, I don’t see myself using Sevin or any other pesticides – yet. As the summer heat takes its toll this year, I’ll be looking closely at whether using pesticides would significantly boost production, or whether the heat would just stop production rather than having the bugs stop production. It’s all a matter of trying different things, recording the results, and “tweaking” your garden. In the end though, if the situation arises where I have to depend on produce from the garden to feed my family, and if pesticide use will make a significant improvement, then I won’t hesitate to use it.

      The key here is that I am making sure that I have that option available to me if needed.

  2. Amy @ Homestead Revival

    I remember trying to garden in the south… bugs just LOVE the garden. I admit, I do not have nearly the bug issues here that you do, so organic gardening may be a bit more realistic, however….

    I’ve had it with the gophers!!! Last week I told my husband to go to the store and get the ‘big guns’ (meaning strychnine). Game on!

    • Stephen Clay McGehee

      No gophers here, Amy, but I am in an on-going battle with squirrels. I’ve been setting out traps, but no luck yet. I usually don’t set up the hoop frames and netting until there are tomatoes ripening, but the hoops are up, and the bracing and the netting will be added sometime this week. They aren’t really bothering the plants, but their digging in the dirt gets close to the roots, and for some reason, those squirrels just aren’t polite enough to cover their holes back up when they’re done with them.

      I think the most effective technique that I’ve found for reducing the bug damage is by planting the seeds very early, grow them under lights for a while, and then transplant them into the garden as early as possible and hope we don’t get a frost. The bugs have their life cycles that coincide with the available food. If I can make my garden plants have their life cycle far enough out of synch with the bug life cycle, then the bugs aren’t around when the ripe vegetables are. That will only take me so far though…

      Thanks for stopping by!

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