Gardening with Laurie: Work with nature to improve gardening experience

As many of you know, organic gardening is really all about creating a natural, healthy environment on your part of the planet.

We garden as nature gardens, and do not deplete our soils of all the beneficial microbial life that nature originally put there. We do not totally eradicate all forms of insect life to protect the plants. We try to grow plants that are well-adapted to the area.

We cultivate the soil in a way that will encourage beneficial bacteria and good fungi. We grow plants that attract and maintain the beneficial insects. All these things and more are steps we try to practice on a regular basis. Nature needs help repairing damage that man has done.

One way to help nature and ourselves is to replenish the beneficial insect population. Now is a great time to start releasing a variety of these good insects in your gardens. A few warm, sunny days is all it takes for our plants to put on new growth. New, tender growth on plants means a spring buffet to all the garden pests.

You'll want to have a good population of good guys to help keep the bad guys in check. The list of good guys include: lacewings, ladybugs, beneficial nematodes, fly predators, parasitic wasps, mealybug destroyers and many, many more.

If your landscape has any type of trees or shrubs that typically has some type of pest caterpillar (webworms, pecan casebearer, etc.) that shows up about this time of year, then now is the time to release predatory wasps.

Trichogramma wasps are part of the predatory wasp family. These little guys eat the larvae of about 200 different species of pest caterpillars. Having a good population of this tiny helper around will help to rid your landscape of many types of pests such as webworms, armyworms, tomato hornworms, squashvine bores, peach tree borers, cabbage worms, gypsy moths, walnut caterpillars, inchworms, leafrollers, leafminers and pecan casebearers, just to name a few.

The correct time of release of the predators is key to their effectiveness.

Once you see pest caterpillars, it is too late for any help from the predatory wasp. Then you'll have to get out your Bacillus thuringiensis and spray the trees or plants. Getting help from all the beneficials insects is so much easier.

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.