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Garbage in, Garden Out, The Recycling Gardener, Of Flies and Fruit

Updated on January 28, 2015

Flies and Birds

Besides recycling our food waste to the benefit of the soils, I allow leaves to stand on top of the soil and oranges from our trees to rot in the surface specifically to attract fruit flies, and their larvae. While many lizards in the yard eat the larvae, Hummingbirds main protein source is fruit flies. Yes, these so called "pests" can cause issues in some location, if you want to increase the fecundity of your garden you need to feed the soil and animals above and below it. If there is no food, they die and the soil loses its moisture, organic matter, and nutrients.

Read the correspondence below to see more of how this works.

Your Host, The Recycling Gardener, Out standing in his field

Yep, that's me
Yep, that's me

Everything organic can be recycled as part of the food chain

All foods can be recycled by mulching or worms bins.
All foods can be recycled by mulching or worms bins.

Fruit flies are part of the food chain.

An e-mail from Bill: Professor, last week I noticed you have rotting fruit under your trees. Why don’t you pick that up?

LC responded: Hello Bill, it was nice to have you here last week. This has to do which your integrated view of your garden, or in this case, my integrated view of my garden. Did you notice the Humming Birds?

For a great variety of causes and reasons people have disintegrated our view of the garden, that is disconnected the various aspects of nature from the way we want our gardens to look. By that I mean we disconnect from the whole unified earth concept and think “scientifically” about our gardens. We often ask the wrong question, do I need nitrogen, or phosphorus, or potassium (NPK)? As opposed to asking “is my soil healthy and what does its condition have to do with the health of my plants?”

I saw a commercial which tells us the health of your garden starts in the soil, or, even, your health starts in the soils from which you eat. Both are true. So true, but then, where does the health of the soil begin? It begins by what goes into that soil.

Remember the second law of science, everything is degrading or running down. So does your soil, or, at least the components of the soil. It needs to be fed more or less continually. I haven’t seen your yard, but the soils needs to be fed continually also, and I don’t mean with chemical fertilizers, but with larger complexes that break down slowly.

Our connection to the land is broken by living in cities. Our schooling no longer integrates our understanding of the earth and the integration of sciences with thinking and how we view our garden and the relation with waste products, and so forth. This is partly because we analyze well and synthesize less efficiently.

How has sciences affected this? Well, first, by isolating what knowledge, “science” is into “natural science” which was done about 150 years ago. “Science” used to be used to describe any knowledge base or study. “Scientist” was coined to describe someone who looks only for natural explanations for what is observed.

Natural science then, basically started out thinking that everything would be explained relatively soon and easily by natural explanations because they believed, say, that a cell was filled with a simple protoplasm and that was about all there was to it. They underestimated the complexity by several orders of magnitude.

I know I have hammered you with this idea before but I do so because to fully understand what nature is like you need to understand just how integrated the various systems are. Naturalistic science then dis-integrated our thinking indirectly by isolating various functions of biology and not reintegrating into a holistic (integrated) thinking process about the nature of, well, nature!

Let me give you an example. We have a natural aversion to contagion. A horse shoos away a fly just as a mother shoos it away from a baby. We know they can carry diseases, and so, when we see fly larvae on, say, a fallen piece of fruit, we use a shovel to pick it up and throw it in the trash can to carry away the source of contamination.

How many times have you done this? I have, many times.

Without even thinking about it, perhaps because we didn’t think about is, the fruit and larvae buried in the ground help improve the soils in many ways.

For instance, they add potassium, which you may be buying in the form of fertilizer and spreading in the garden, because living things have potassium in them and they help recycle it. They add carbon, which you may be in favor of keeping out of the atmosphere. Carbon in the soils is a very good thing. The fruit adds sugars, which feed soil organisms such as bacteria and fungi, and even worms, which convert the fruit into usable nutrients for your plants, that is, fertilizer, even the mold growing on it has purpose and use in the soil.

Here is the kicker: The fly larvae growing on the fruit will add nitrogen to the soils in addition to all the other nutrients their small bodies contain. But some gardeners pick up everything off the ground and do not put it back into the ground in any meaningful manner.

Now can you see the dis-integration of thought in modern society? Trying to avoid contagion, we discard the nutrient on the fruit, which is useful to the soil. The fly would be there; neither would other insects, mold, or bacteria if there were not nutrients to keep them growing. So where do you want those nutrients once that are not fit for human consumption?

In science, disintegration, or breaking things apart is of course called analysis. The opposite, putting things together is called synthesis. We know the soil requires nutrients but we oversimplified the need for complex nutrients for bacteria and fungia and plants and replaced it with the simplified mineral salts we call chemical fertilizers because they worked so well at achieving our goals of food production.

Analysis and synthesis are fine and a wonderful way to think about things as long as they are really very simple. Like an old car, say, the 1965 Mustang you are refurbishing.

“Simple?” You object.

Yes, simple. Here are only a few thousand parts. There are more components in one cell in your finger. You throw out more complexity when you pluck an eyebrow. But unlike the eyebrow or cell in your finger, we can take the car apart into small pieces, then put it all back together and nothing is lost, it is no greater than the simple sum of its parts. We can’t do that with a cell, or, any living thing. We can cut into it, push the tissues back together and the living body will heal itself, but that isn’t us doing it, that is, our personality, it is the organism’s ability to heal that is doing it. If you disconnect that cell from a living being and then cut into it, putting it back together doesn’t work.

Why? I’ll let you think about that, but organisms are far more complex that we used to think. In that 150 years since science has been defined as the search for naturalistic explanations, the knowledge of complexity in a cell has grown enormously. All of any given organism can be recycled by various processes useful to the soil. Be it a leaf dropping from the tree or the rat caught in the trap, the soil can use it to enrich the soils because of the extremely complex life that is in the animal and the soils and their ability to recycle the nutrients and make them available to the soil. Natural processes will reduce it to usable nutrients to the benefit of the soil, the plants grown in it, then to you if you eat from your garden.

There are things you might not want to use in the soils unless there are special circumstances. These are things with thorns such as cactus or rose bushes, barberries or bougainvillea, which could cause a lot of pain if you run into them unexpectedly, or animal products weighing more than a few ounces, say, cheese from a salad can be used in the worm bin or a shallow area, but a pound of cheese should be buried a foot deep, or a large animal, dog or sheep, several feet deep to prevent smells from bothering the neighbors and animals from digging it up.

What are the special cases? Well, you might have a trenching device, excavator, or backhoe in which case you could bury them deeper into the soil. Or, more likely than that, you might have a mulching machine which will break them up but also can be used for larger jobs where the mulch becomes hotter, and, if you work it correctly, that is, aerate it frequently and keep it moist, those thorns will break down in a few weeks. I ran into both yesterday (at this writing) when I trimmed my rose bush and put it out for green recycling, they will mulch it, and when I ran into an old dead cactus that my son had discarded into my garden. Unfortunately it was my fingers that found it under the leaves I was picking up. Ouch.

Let’s use another example, an organic example. What do you do with fruit that falls? Well, what is the fruit composed of? Fiber (long sugar strings that break down slowly), sugars which break down quickly but are high value foods for bacteria, fly larvae, worms, fungi, etc. Minerals taken from the soil, and many types of carbon molecules, thousands really, that also break down slowly.

You kind of object to the fruit flies, but again, did you see the Humming Birds? Their primary source of protein is fruit flies. So the next time you see fruit on the ground think, “Do I really want Humming Birds in my garden?”

Got to fly away now,

Best Regards,

Recycling in the Garden

Click thumbnail to view full-size
This area was built on top of a foot of mulchRandom Garden Pic. The Ficus has been in the rock for more than a decadeAll the food waste goes into the mulch bin.But, a confession, it turned into a worm bin!There are bacteria and fungi that can break down every organic molecule, then the worms and other fauna take over the recycling.
This area was built on top of a foot of mulch
This area was built on top of a foot of mulch
Random Garden Pic. The Ficus has been in the rock for more than a decade
Random Garden Pic. The Ficus has been in the rock for more than a decade
All the food waste goes into the mulch bin.
All the food waste goes into the mulch bin.
But, a confession, it turned into a worm bin!
But, a confession, it turned into a worm bin!
There are bacteria and fungi that can break down every organic molecule, then the worms and other fauna take over the recycling.
There are bacteria and fungi that can break down every organic molecule, then the worms and other fauna take over the recycling.

© 2015 Ronald A Newcomb


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