PORTER — Respect for one another, other species and the Earth was the lesson 15 people took away Sunday from the Organic Gardening Make & Take Workshop, sponsored by Dunes Learning Center, at Chellberg Farm.
Phoebe Plomaritis, whose family operates Acorn Acres Farm in Kouts, talked with participants about sustainable gardening, controlling pests and predators, repurposing, and encouraging pollinators. After the talk, gardeners created their own organic pesticide and fertilizers and took them home in provided spray bottles.
Plomaritis, who manages her family’s organic garden and Acorn Acres farm store in Chesterton, said to be sustainable means to “do no harm.”
Plomaritis’ brother, Jonathan Plomaritis, was also on hand to answer questions and to warn gardeners to not be hasty to kill predators and pests to protect their gardens.
He encouraged gardeners to “find symbiotic relationships” when dealing with predators and pests.
“We have to kind of use our heads,” Plomaritis said. “If you can try to keep things in balance, maybe we can avoid extremes.”
Although a red fox killed five of his chickens, Jonathan Plomaritis said he “chased him out of there,” discovered how the fox was getting into the coop, and fixed the entry points and the fox has not returned.
“If I were to panic and to kill the fox ... well, he eats the mice,” he said. “The raccoons and foxes and hawks ... they all keep each other in check.”
Changing misconceptions about predators, such as bats, can also help the organic garden, Phoebe Plomaritis said.
“I always knew bats were wonderful creatures,” she said. “Then I found out that the little brown bat eats 1,000 mosquitoes per hour. They also make great manure. People are scared of them, but we need to change the way we think, change our mindset.”
The Plomaritises encouraged gardeners to grow flowers on their property to attract pollinators.
“It takes 2 trillion flowers to make an ounce of honey,” Jonathan Plomaritis said. “If we each do a little bit, it all adds up.”
Phoebe Plomaritis said her parents instilled in their children the passion for gardening and sustainability, as the family garden was crucial to put enough food on the table in spite of her father’s teacher’s salary. She said because her father grew up during the Great Depression, he also repurposed everything.
Geof Benson, Dunes Learning Center executive director, said the organization has hosted environmental seminars for 19 years for educators and homeschooling parents, but has recently expanded its offerings to members of the general public.
Sunday’s public workshop, the third held at Chellberg Farm, was preceded by a seminar on raising chickens and a garlic mustard pull event, both offered in the spring.
The next Dunes Learning Center workshop at Chellberg Farm is Farm to Tea: Healing Herbs, from 1 to 2 p.m. Aug. 13. Register at www.duneslearningcenter.org.