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Gardening with Laurie: Provide habitat for beneficial insects

By By Laurie Garretson
May 2, 2013 at 12:02 a.m.


Organic gardeners strive to build fertility and organic matter in our soils. We realize doing this will help us to grow healthy, disease-free and pest-free plants.

This, in turn, keeps us from having to use insecticides so often. Organic, healthy plants will not be as prone to pests and disease problems.

When we stop or even cut back on using insecticides, we'll see more beneficial insects show up in our landscapes. Allow Mother Nature to do her thing, and she will take care of matters. It is the way of nature for beneficial insects to handle unwanted insects.

More than 50 years ago, farmers and gardeners started supplementing their crops and gardens with beneficial insects from commercial insectories. Additional beneficial insects helped to give nature a helping hand. This practice became known as pest management.

Ladybugs have always been the most familiar and popular of all the beneficial bugs. Ladybugs eat the eggs of many pests insects and the larval stage of some beetles. Ladybugs are most commonly brought in to help control aphids and scale.

Most organic gardeners realize not only the importance of having beneficial bugs but also the importance of attracting them into their gardens. Creating a habitat that will attract and protect the good bugs is a very important part of organic gardening.

There are many shrubs, annuals, perennials and cover crops that are commonly used to attract and protect beneficial insects. Examples are ligustrum, wax myrtle, sweet alyssum, dill, fennel, cosmos, yarrow, lantana, verbena and cover crops such as clover and vetch. All habitats will also need to include a water source, whether it be a shallow pond or a simple bird bath.

Once you have provided the habitat for the beneficial insects don't be surprised by all the different types of insects that show up. Many gardeners will find it hard to identify all the new insects that show up. Do not be worried by all the flies, wasp and beetles that might start to gather in your new habitat, most of them are probably beneficial.

A good insect book could be very beneficial for identification purposes. I love my copy of "The Texas Bug Book" by Howard Garrett and Malcolm Beck. It is a wonderful resource of information on all types of good and bad bugs. It is also full of helpful photos to help identify the bugs.

Encouraging good bugs to help you balance your own little corner of the planet is called sustainable gardening.

That means you are helping nature by providing a natural blend of organisms and their environment. A very good thing for all of us to do.

Until next time, let's try to garden with nature, not against it, and maybe all our weeds will become wildflowers.

Laurie Garretson is a Victoria gardener and nursery owner. Send your gardening questions to laurie@vicad.com or in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77902.

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