Confessions of an Experienced Gardener

By Gil Medeiros, Fairfax Master Gardener
It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts. — John Wooden, Hall of Fame Basketball Coach

Some lessons are hard to put into practice. Maybe you understand intellectually what you should do, but you just can’t bring yourself to do it. For example, in the face of overwhelming evidence, some of us don’t exercise enough, or we eat the wrong foods, or we fiddle with our cellphones while driving.

What brings us to change such habits or mindsets? It could be a near-death experience or the urging of a friend. But it also could be that when we hear the advice for long enough, we grudgingly accept it.

I have gardened in some fashion for the past 37 years. Experience and self-study over that time made me pretty knowledgeable in the garden. Still, there were major gaps in my gardening practices: there were things I knew but did not act upon. Here are three of them.

Insects are not my enemy

There was a time, not so long ago, when I had the juvenile attitude that all insects were bad. My natural inclination was to squash any insect that wandered within striking distance of my hand. Worse, I would use broad spectrum insecticides to kill minor pests in the landscape. Neither training from great entomologists of the mid-Atlantic nor reading the terrific book “Bringing Nature Home” by Doug Tallamy could dent this mindset.

About three years ago there was a turning point for me. I had a reputable company spray for mosquitoes in my yard in advance of a major summer party. I checked the chemical. It was bifenthrin, nothing scary. I talked to the tech about where he would spray and asked that he stay away from anything that was in bloom. And then I watched as he sprayed.

The treatment successfully controlled the mosquitoes for the expected time period. The party was a success, and no one complained about insect bites.