Over the years as I get older, I have changed my gardening methods. Gone are the days of plowing the garden every year, hauling water, and fighting pests and weeds. By July, I was ready to give up. Now, my motto is a No Fuss Garden. I want to enjoy gardening, being outside, and harvesting fresh vegetables. But I’m not willing to spend hours in the garden anymore to reap the rewards. And no one should have to. When you practice a few simple steps to prevent some of problems gardeners experience, you can enjoy your garden throughout the garden season.
Instead of reaching for insecticidal sprays and dust when you see a “bug” in the garden, let’s create an environment that attracts beneficial insects to your garden. This is your first line of defense against the pests that want to enjoy your harvest before you get a chance to. Over the last couple of years, I have been reading about attracting beneficial insects to your garden to help in the fight with garden pests. I garden organically, so anything that could help with eliminating the need for pesticides was worth giving a try. Don’t panic when you see pests in the garden. This is natural. The “good guys” tend to lag
What insects are pests in the garden?
It’s important you first identify the bugs you DON’T want in your garden.
- Flea Beetles
- Cabbage moths
- Squash Vine Borers
This photo shows you the squash vine borer, Mexican bean beetle, cabbage moth, and aphids.
- Mexican Bean Beetles are chewers. They use their mouths to chew holes in your plant leaves. Grasshoppers also fall into this category as well as the larvae of some moths such as the cabbage moth worm.
- Boring insects such as the squash vine borer is one of the most problematic insects in my garden and the one I am most asked about in my garden classes. It is technically a moth, but doesn’t look like what I consider moths look like. It lays it’s eggs on or near the stem of the squash plant and it’s larvae enter the stem, quickly destroying the plant. It is active in June and July. It lays it’s eggs at the base of the plant. Having parasitic wasp in your garden when the eggs are laid can be helpful but the best choice is insect netting as soon as your plants sprout, or are planted.
- Aphids are sap suckers that pierce the stems of plants and suck the sap from the plant.
What insects are beneficial?
Green Lacewings, ground beetles, parastic wasps and flies, and spiders are all important in your arsenal for fighting pests in the garden. Not shown here, but the yellow jacket, known as a social wasp is a great ally in the garden. They were very active in my garden in the fall, and I had to watch were I stepped. They were welcome to stay.
How can I attract beneficial insects to the garden?
There are several ways to add plants that attract beneficial insects to your garden. Interplant in the garden itself. In my raised bed garden corner you see sweet alyssum planted from seed in late March that attracts beneficial insects. In May, I purchased zinnia plants. Although beneficial insects eat other pest, many require plants that provide pollen or nectar. These zinnias also attract pollinators which will ensure that I have lots of cucumbers that are planted on the trellis behind them.
If you garden in the ground, consider planting a border of various plants such as yarrow, yellow coneflowers, sunflowers, and cosmos around the garden perimeter to attract beneficial insects. You can also plant containers of flowering herb such as chamomile, oregano and borage along with flowers such as sweet alyssum, calendula, and marigolds, and place them around your garden.
What flowers attract beneficial insects?
Beneficial insects including pollinators prefer a variety of herbs and flowers that bloom at different times of the year to support them throughout the garden season. Plant early spring spring flowers to lure them in before the pests season starts, and then a sequence of plants and herbs that will flower all season to keep them there. Include these flowers in your garden for the best results. Also, plant small flowers at little insects like hoverflies can reach into. They need the nectar exposed because they don’t have the specialty mouth that allows them to push deep into the flower.
- Grape hyacnths
- Chamomile, dil, fennel, yarrow, parsley, sage, anise hyssop, chives, borage
- Calendula, cosmos, french marigolds, shasta daisy sweet alyssum, sunflowers, asters.
If you are new to organic gardening, and want to attract beneficial insects, be aware that it may take a couple of years to reap the benefits. While you can’t have a pest-free garden there are things you can do to keep them manageable. I encourage you use this practice of inviting beneficial insects into the garden. I know that it has made a world of difference in mine.
Want to learn more about creating a garden that fosters beneficial insects?
I have created a 22 page downloadable E book that profiles some of the most common beneficial insects and the plants that you can add to your garden to attract them. It includes a garden design graph that you can outline spaces in your yard to create gardens for attracting beneficial insects, and tips on planting.
You may also enjoy these books which I have on my garden bookshelf and have helped me learn more about attracting beneficial insects to my garden. As an Amazon affiliate anything you purchase when you click on one of these links will provide me with a small monetary compensation.
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