"Oh, don't worry about them," Mike says confidently. "They show up here every afternoon." Not yet convinced they aren't some kind of omen, I march warily with Mike into his vegetable garden.
And what a garden it is. Here in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains, tidy planting boxes give birth to lettuce, beans, and broccoli. Tomato and pepper plants flex vegetative muscles to hold up an amazing crop of yellow, red, and orange fruit. Cut flowers and produce decorate a potting bench. Weeds are scarcer than culottes at a senior prom.
Mike was introduced to gardening at a young age. "At our house, we always had a vegetable garden," he recalls. "Like any other kid, I hated working in it, but I learned a lot." That knowledge lay dormant for decades until a gardening class inspired him to start one of his own.
From the first, Mike and his wife, Glenda, decided that it would be organic. "We just feel it's so much better for you," he explains. "All the nutrients we put into the ground come back to us in the vegetables." Every year, Mike amends the soil with huge amounts of leaves that he collects from the yard, chops, and composts. To this he adds natural fertilizers--rock phosphate for phosphorus, green sand for potassium, cottonseed meal and blood meal for nitrogen, and gypsum for calcium and improved soil structure. Natural products don't work as fast as manufactured fertilizers, but they last a lot longer. "I fertilize just once a year," he states. "If I used 10-10-10, it'd be gone in 30 days."To control insects, he uses natural pesticides, such as pyrethrin and rotenone. To head off disease, he sprays with copper.