Tuesday, May 22, 2012

"Good" Bugs

Be sure to make these beneficial insects feel welcome in your garden. 
They will pollinate your plants while eating up the bad bugs that hurt your garden.
  • Spiders (actually are NOT insects! They are arachnids.)
  • Honey bees, bumble bees, bald-faced hornets, mason bees, and yellow jackets
  • Soldier beetles, rove beetles, lady beetles (or lady bugs)
  • Dragonflies
  • Assassin bugs 
  • Centipedes

Organic Alternatives:

Natural ways to fight unwanted weeds and insects in your garden

In addition to the northwest’s often fickle weather, two of the biggest obstacles to a beautiful, healthy garden are weeds and insects. Weeds are unwanted plants that grow wild, often encroaching on your cultivated garden, damaging the root systems and the plants themselves. Many weeds are labeled noxious, meaning they are damaging and non-native, spreading aggressively and harming our pastures, ecosystems, and human / animal health. The damaging potential of such weeds is serious enough that Washington state passed a noxious weed law to control them. Some insects, like weeds, invade and feed off your garden, also damaging roots and plants. It’s important to note that in addition to insect pests, there are many “good” insects that are natural pesticides.
Chemical pesticides can produce immediate results; however, there are several drawbacks to this method that can be harmful and even fatal. Pesticide poisoning in humans causes illness, cancer, and sometimes death. Children and pets can track pesticide into your home putting everyone at risk. Pesticides can also seep into the soil and water supply, increasing the risk of harm to the ecosystem. In addition, pesticides can kill your healthy plants as well as “good” insects that pollinate your plants and eat the “bad” bugs. There are several alternatives to chemical pesticides that can keep weeds and bugs at bay while minimizing risk of harm to people and damage to healthy plants and animals.
To minimize weed growth: Planting healthy plants will crowd out weeds. If you plant native plants, they will thrive and crowd out noxious weeds. Use good soil and mulch to make weeds easier to pull and prevent them from germinating. Cardboard sheets / newspaper, covered with compost, chips, or stones, will smother weeds. Plant a variety of different sizes to shade the ground; fewer weeds grow in the shade.
To minimize insect damage: Choose pest-resistant plants (many native plants are pest-resistant). Keep plants healthy, and clean out rotten and diseased plants, as insects are attracted to unhealthy material. Attract pest-eating birds and bugs to your garden (many native plants do this), as they will not only consume the bugs, but they will pollinate your healthy plants. Welcome good bugs by planting nectar-producing flowers.
Nature supplies us with countless ways of dealing with unwanted pests and insects. If you decide to use a chemical pesticide, be sure to carefully research its potential side effects. If you have any questions about this, be sure to give us a call.