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When I hear people say that organic gardening isn’t possible, I have to scratch my head and wonder how we got so far away from our roots. Organic gardening is all I’ve ever known, primarily because that’s the way my dad taught me. My father always pointed to nature to correct itself and to make it’s needs known to us. We are only managers of the environment, and when we understand what nature needs, we can do a much better. Here’s “How to Attract Beneficial Bugs to the Garden”!
We simply don’t have as much control over nature as we think we do. There are folks who spray pesticides and herbicides on their gardens and landscaping, feeling that there is no other way to rid themselves of disease and pests. But what they don’t realize is that they are doing far more damage than good. Beneficial bugs are the true answer to pest problems!
You’ve heard about “super-bugs” in the news, and how they don’t respond to antibiotics anymore. Antibiotics have been so over-prescribed that the pathogens are no longer affected by them. What do you do at that point?
The same is true in the garden. When we spray pesticides and herbicides year after year, the soil becomes increasingly weak and the plants are no longer able to defend themselves. You’re only perpetuating the problem. These toxins also kill the beneficial bugs that we so desperately need!
Get the big things right, and the rest will take care of itself!
What are the BIG things?
Soil is huge. Actually, it’s everything. Without good soil, you will not attract the good bugs. Further, you will definitely attract the bad ones. Good bugs are attracted to “life” in your soil, bad bugs are attracted to desolate dirt.
Healthy soil is accomplished by many seasons of compost and manure being blended into your soil. This step cannot be avoided! Take steps now, before garden season, to get your hands on compost as well as manure. If you have a compost bin, this is a good time to spread it all on your garden, well before planting season. This allows the rain (and snow?) to assist with seeping the nutrients into the soil.
Check around for local manure that is well aged, maybe on Craigslist or your city’s Facebook page.
If you have to, hardware stores and big box home improvement stores have bags of organic compost and manure. Read the bags to see how far one bag will spread, and then load up!
As your plants grow, they use up the minerals in the soil, and therefore, your soil must be replenished at least once a year. I spread manure/compost on my garden in the Spring and the Fall.
2. Attract the Right Insects
The key to organic gardening is to work along with nature. This means attracting good bugs that like to eat your bad bugs for dinner. Isn’t that incredible? So, if you provide food and shelter for insects like ladybugs, they will take up residence in your garden!
Providing food for the beneficial insects you are trying to attract is pretty straight forward. They need nectar, pollen and cover. You don’t have to be an expert or an entomologist to attract the right insects to your yard. There are certain flowers and herbs that these “good bugs” are attracted to, you just need to put them out.
Every year, I put a perimeter of marigold or calendula around my garden, and inter-plant them in my rows as well. This works amazingly well, even if that’s all I did! However, if you can just get 5-6 flowers/herbs from this list in or near your garden this summer, I think you’ll be amazed!
- Marigold (or Calendula, but this is a MUST!)
- Queen Anne’s lace
- Goldenrod (this frequently pops up in my garden mid-summer, and I just leave it for it’s benefits)
- Wild mustard
- Lemon balm
- Joe Pye weed
These are excellent books that go into more detail about beneficial insects, and I highly recommend reading them and increasing your knowledge!
3. Rotate Crops
Each gardening season, plants take up the nutrients they need from the soil. With repeated planting of the same vegetable family every year, the soil becomes depleted. Remember, weak soil is an open invitation to bad insects.
Nourish your soil each year with compost, but I cannot stress enough the importance of rotating crops! Keep a quick sketch of your garden layout in a farm journal of some kind so you can remember from year to year.
Here’s a list of the vegetable families:
- Alliaceae: Chives, garlic, leeks and onion
- Asteraceae: Endive, globe artichoke and lettuces
- Brassicaceae: Broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, kale, mustard greens, radish, rutabaga, turnip, cauliflower and cabbage.
- Chenopodiaceae: Spinach, beets and Swiss chard
- Cucurbitaceae: Cantaloupe, cucumber, pumpkin, watermelon, summer and winter squash
- Fabaceae: Green beans, lima beans, peas, snap beans and fava beans
- Liliaceae: Asparagus
- Poaceae: Corn
- Polygonaceae: Rhubarb
- Solanaceae: Eggplant, potato, peppers and tomatoes
- Umbelliferae: Carrot, celery, fennel, parsley and parsnips.
4. Invite the Birds to Your Garden
Birds LOVE to munch on insects! They are a wonderful, as well as enjoyable part of protecting an organic garden! Put bird houses, as well as feeders, in trees and landscaping near your garden. It’s money well spent!
After a summer of implementing these steps, I’m quite certain that you’ll find yourself with fewer pests, more beneficial bugs as well as an abundant harvest!
“No occupation is so delightful to me as the culture of the earth, and no culture comparable to that of the garden” Thomas Jefferson (1811)