By Ruud Kleinpaste
‘Ruud, it doesn’t matter what you’re going to be doing with your life; as long as you learn how to grow your own food, you’ll always have a skill to keep yourself alive on this planet, in any circumstance.’ That advice was given to Ruud Kleinpaste by his father, and Ruud, as New Zealanders will know, has gone onto become a TV personality, notable for his sense of humour and his passion for bugs - little critters which he says are literally the salt of the earth.
In his introduction to this bug reference guide, Ruud writes, ‘This book aims to help you identify the guilty parties and to deal with them in the most eco-friendly way possible.’
The introduction gives an overview of bugs which cause plant damage (chewers, suckers and raspers), the predators and parasites of the garden, and the various control strategies - biological, cultural and physical - including organic sprays, chemical control and integrated pest management. The book then covers a wide range of bugs including spiders, beetles, butterflies, thrips and suckers like aphids as well as a Garden Goodies chapter which includes otherwise unpopular creatures like cockroaches and earwigs. The life cycle of each bug is described, along with their benefits or impact, predators and control where required. There are also info boxes on some pages with interesting snippets such as why some people seem to have a mozzie target painted on their body while others are rarely bothered by the little blighters.
This book is a helpful guide for the organic gardener and although some chemical sprays are suggested they are certainly not the emphasis of the book and there are many less-harmful to the environment options for bug control covered including just leaving them alone to get on with it. Apart from being a useable reference book it is an interesting read in itself and sheds light on some of the suprising benefits of all sorts of bugs, even cockroaches. In addition, New Zealand gardeners will find it the ideal reference for their conditions, although it no doubt has wider application as well.
Backyard Battlefield is printed on glossy pages with coloured close-up bug ID pics, and is of a size which is easy to flick through for a quick piece of info. It is a well-written, well laid-out informative reference book for any gardener and anyone who has seen Ruud on TV or read his column in Growing Today will recognise his sense of humor running through it. We will never look at an earwig in the same light. Highly recommended. Published by Random House, RRP $29.95