Getting ready for spring sees gardeners in management mode. This year I am in a new landscape with new challenges. So in my research for spring pest management I found myself reminded that not all bugs are bad for the landscape. Not only are good bugs necessary for the landscape but also having the right plants, creating a water source, and down playing pesticides.
A word about pesticides, many gardeners reach for these chemicals first. But, they really should be a last resort. If the right kind of bugs, birds and lizards are attracted to your garden they will work as the best pest management we will ever need and, we are helping out all of them in their cycle of life.
What to plant? A simple key for flowers is think “open face” heads. Some of these are zinnias, sunflowers or any of the wildflowers that are found in Central Texas. Other flowering plants are herbs. In the spring the beneficial bugs are attracted to coriander, parsley and fennel. Adding these to landscape you will soon see bugs coming into the garden.
Zinnias, sunflowers or any of the Texas wildflowers offer a safe haven to the good bugs. Another favorite of mine to attract good bugs (and birds or bees) is Lantana.
Here are few of my favorite good insects in the landscape.
Green Lacewing: What a gentle looking fellow with such a big job! You will see the pretty little bugs sometimes around outside lights. Known to control aphids, thrips, red mites, small caterpillars and mealy bugs that like to munch away on foliage in the landscape! And as with any meal, Lacewings like to finish off with a drink.
Ladybug: I have always loved Ladybugs ever since my childhood. But it wasn’t until I got older that I realized what a friend to the garden they are. Now whenever I see them crawling about on the plants I am thankful they are there. Most years they are in the garden if they are offered good plants, water and a natural habitat. They control aphids, mites, and mealy bugs. Known as aphid wolves because they feed on small orange-spotted black grubs. What would I do without them!
Honey Bee: There is so much to say about our friend the Honey Bee. One thing that is very important to keep in mind is they are a threatened specie now due to the over use of pesticides. Getting them to come back into the landscape is a huge challenge. But do not give up! One thing I have noticed this spring is they are sharing the feeders with the hummingbirds. I take no issue with that!
Earthworm: Last but certainly not least is the lowly earthworm. When I see earthworms I know those little mini composters are fast at work. They create the kind of well-aerated soil that I like to call “black gold”. Whenever earthworms collide with humans then it is the human that squeamishly tries to remove them from sight! But these little workers are busy take care of the soil. We need them, in Central Texas that is a huge job!
Birds are a great source to protect the garden. They come in and feed on the bad bugs. I try to keep a natural habitat for them as well. As I hear them begin their morning song I know it is time to take my Lizzie dog for walk. But before I do please, whatever you are doing in the garden make the use of harsh chemical pesticides your LAST resort! And read the application instruction carefully. More is not better for you, your landscape or planet Earth. Pesticides can harm you and your pets, whether you have a dog or a cat. And children. The over use of them is a lazy gardener’s tool.
Until next month when we head into real summer heat, Happy Gardening!!!