Confession: I sprayed for bugs tonight

After 3+ years of growing vegetables in our backyard I used my very first pesticide tonight. As I write this my arms arms are still burning from some of the toxic chemicals that must have gotten on my arms. OK, so that’s most likely psychosomatic, but I’m feeling burning and tingling.

We panicked

Last year we had a very successful spring but later lost most of our summer tomatoes to mites. It was a royal bummer and it put us in a bit of a gardening slump.  Back in 2010 we had a bumper crop. Literally, every day I picked 1-2 pounds of yellow cherry tomatoes. We had so many that I even began sun drying them on the patio. And 2011 started off the same way but slowly the mites won the battle and we lost all of our plants right in the middle of high-yield time. We set a record with 42 red tomatoes in one day and within 3 weeks had zero.

So today, when Kristen sent me a text that she had found some mites on a plant and that they had done a great deal of damage to a specific plant, my instant response was to say “Let’s go to Home Depot tonight and spray them before sunset.” 

Two hours later and we were wandering up and down the fertilizer and pesticide aisle. While we regularly use a mixture of our own compost, commercially available organic fertilizer, and fish meal we buy from our local nursery… we’d never bought a pesticide for the garden.

It was crazy how fast we went from recognizing the problem, to buying a chemical, to actually spraying our garden.

And we didn’t buy a soft little nice pesticide. We bought a mean one with red labels, an included electric sprayer, and we were careful to make sure it was designed to kill hundreds of special of pests.

It took about 10 minutes. (Per the directions I will repeat it every 3 days for at least 2 more treatments.) And I felt that type of guilt one feels when you have to have a pet put to sleep. There’s no joy in it but you know it’s the right thing.

Bug management

For some reason the other 2 growing seasons in San Diego don’t trip us up. We grow big, healthy stuff in January and October. It’s not that we don’t have bugs then but it is that we don’t see them destroy everything in sight. But for some reason bugs are worse in summer and maybe we just needed to take this stand?

Well, that’s the guilt talking. At least I’ll get to wash down that guilt with some fresh tomatoes soon.

Categorized as Our Garden

By Adam McLane

Kristen and Adam live in Ahwahnee, California.


  1. With no winter this year our garden was getting decimated. After trying all the organic remedies (one of which made things worse) we bit the bullet and went with the most hard core stuff our garden center sells… and bought some sevin from home depot as a back up. So far the “nicer” one is working, but man… it has been BAD this year!

    My encouragement for you is that while some may revoke your organic card, the truth is what you put on your garden is no where near the quantity, or the power, of what gets put on the grocery store stuff (read tomatoland, if you can stomach it).

  2. Thanks for that encouragement, Matt. I think the thing we reminded ourselves is that while we feel really horrible about it, even the most organic farms do spray sometimes. (They just use approved chemicals)

    And you are right, a tomato grown in our backyard is way, WAY better than one picked when it’s bright green by a slave in Florida and stored in a refrigerator for months.

    I walked around this morning and saw a lot of dead bugs. Hopefully, this will work and our plants can recover.

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