"You have thrips," my irrigation guy said to me as we were hunting for a potential leak a few days ago. "Well, yes, this time of year, after the long dry summer, the rhododenron, ferns, and huckleberries usually get it." I replied. "It gets better after a few good rains."
"Very interesting," he replied. "It seems they are inside your tolerance level. I had this teacher once who told me you cannot garden sustainably unless you have a certain tolerance level."
That really got me to thinking. And yes, I absolutely tolerate some grey-looking huckleberry leaves. Especially because it seems that after 5 years or so, the plants' roots get long enough to survive the summer without succumbing to thrips. Below, a 9-year old plant and a 3-year old plant next to each other. The difference is striking.
Things got even more interesting when I talked to a neighbor who had received some native ginger (Asarum caudatum) plants from me recently. "They're getting eaten!" she exclaimed."I don't know what to do. Big holes. What could it be?" "Very odd," I said. "I don't think mine are getting eaten. But regardless, I wouldn't worry about it too much. I think they'll be fine."
Then I went home. Guess what. The plants had big holes. Not all plants, but several of them. How come I didn't see that? Well, it must be the tolerance level. (And I do expect the plants will be fine).