09 April 2010

Rows in the Wood

Michael and I were thrilled last weekend when the weather was pleasant enough to amend the soil in our raised beds for this year's garden. We had drawn up a diagram of the crop rotation, purchased the seeds we wanted, and even had seedlings of certain vegetables we started indoors back in February. All we needed to do was purchase some composted manure at Maddox Feed and Seed just up the road from our home to start conditioning.

With Mojo in tow, we made the short trip to the store in Michael's '97 Sierra. While Michael put in a request for several 40-lb. bags of Black Kow (www.blackkow.com), I walked Mojo around the dirt parking lot, as to avoid any gobbling up of the baby chicks the owners were keeping under a heat lamp in a shallow box just beyond the equine equipment. Two workers emerged with a handtruck of our tall order, loaded the bright yellow bags in the bed of the truck, plus a large bag of nitrogen fertilizer we would need for growing prime sweet corn. I also asked Michael for a 9-pack of multicolored coleus (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coleus). Total trip time couldn't have exceeded 30 minutes.

We got right to work when we arrived home. Mojo was staked in the middle of the front yard, Michael unloaded and transported the manure to our garden site, and I got down on my knees to pull weeds. It was while I was tugging a dandelion from the ground that I heard Michael call out to me.

"Uh, Baby. I think we have a problem," he said solemnly. I turned to look up the hill. Michael was bent over one of the beds, squinting and poking at the inside wall of the bed.

"What is it?" I asked back, not sure if I wanted to know the answer.

"We've got termites," came the response. "Lots of them."

I walked up the hill to have a look for myself. Sure enough, there they were. What looked like hundreds of them. Tiny, squirming white insects both in the soil and in the wood. We figured they must have come in with the mulch we purchased last spring. I was angry at myself for not pursuing a refund or some other form of restitution from the nursery after noticing what looked like a termite after we mixed the mulch in with soil and conditioner a year ago. And with all of the rain we had this winter, it is no surprise the termites had spread into almost all of the beds. It was like being the star of your own termite control commercial, except, that's not exactly the kind of commercial in which you want to be the star. All I needed were a few computer-generated dollar signs and a man in a uniform coming to the rescue with termite treatment and a satisfaction guarantee.

I stared in awe at the termites' work. Their rows in the wood were perfect, like mini highways they used for traveling about the cellulose-rich material. They went in and out of their rows with ease, as if we had built the beds just for their colonies to populate exponentially. It was frustrating watching the time and effort we had put into constructing those beds being eaten by pests no bigger than an eyelash.

I saw red. I wanted them gone, and I wanted it to be done as soon as humanly possible.

I handed Michael my cell phone and asked him to call Robert. He is Michael's best friend from childhood, and he happens to be in the pest control business with Dorsey's Pest Control, Inc. out of central Georgia. Robert said he would be willing to treat, but he expressed concern for the effects of the toxins in the treatment on our future vegetables. The veggies would not be safe to eat if grown in soil treated for termites, and the toxins would stay in the soil for years to come. He explained that we would have to sacrifice growing anything in the very beds that were meant for our homegrown foods if we decided to eradicate the termites.

Michael and I mulled over several alternative ideas for roughly a day. We began to think of places in the yard where we could grow our tomatoes, peppers, etc. instead of in the beds based on the sun's path and where the hoses would reach. We considered disassembling the beds and building new ones with exterior or composite lumber. We even thought about getting rid of the beds altogether and plowing all of the soil into the earth.

I couldn't bear the idea of giving up our raised beds without trying something organic first. I did some Internet research on how to treat for termites in ways that were safe and non-toxic. There were only a few suggestions that I could find, but there was one that seemed to be reasonable and somewhat easy to obtain ingredients for: an orange oil solution spray. I would need to mix one ounce of orange or citrus oil into a gallon of warm water and douse the infested wood with it. Apparently, citrus oil kills termites on contact. And because it's sold as a supplement, it is completely safe for humans to consume.

Nutrition stores carry the oils and extracts of various types of fruit, vegetables, and herbs. I went to a nutrition store in Winder to pick up a bottle of orange oil. There was only one 1-oz. bottle of the stuff, and it was priced at nearly $6! I decided to suck it up in the name of all things organic and try it out. I treated as many sides of our 8 raised beds as I could with a gallon of the mix. The wind blew a good bit of the spray on me, causing me to bear the scent of an orange grove until I had the chance at a shower. I have yet to check the beds for the effects of the spray on the troublesome pests since it has rained substantially and our garden gets too muddy to walk through. I'm afraid I'm going to see more termites than before, but I'm hoping there has been noticeable change in our favor.

Robert came out to treat around the house for termites, but stayed away from the garden at our request. He informed us that termites wouldn't harm the plants or their roots in any way if we decided to go ahead and plant our crops for this season. Michael and I plan to continue to try organic methods of termite control for our garden area only. If we continue to have trouble with termites, we figure we can get at least one more successful season out of the beds before eventually having to destroy them. Come on, orange oil!


If you are in need of pest control solutions, lawn management, or a specific kind of treatment, we highly recommend Dorsey's Pest Control, Inc. Here is their website:

1 comment:

Margarite Miller said...

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