How does helping out our pollinators by providing them a safe and organic environment to feed and energize themselves sound to you? You can do it by adopting a true organic gardening regime. Beneficial insects are one way to help you naturally fight off the pest problems we face while gardening here in San Antonio. These are the insects that practically make their living off of devouring your garden pests, or work tirelessly to pollinate and/or improve your garden or garden soil. They may include ladybugs, praying mantis, beneficial nematodes, bees, earthworms, Green lacewings, and more. If you invite them into your landscape, they will be more than willing to clean it up for you. You’ll be singing, “I get by with a little help from my friends” in no time. Take a look at how to attract beneficial insects to your world with the tips below.
(Cleaning up and happy to do it.)
-Don’t kill them…seems logical, but remember anytime you spray a broad-spectrum pesticide, they are not selective. This means you will be killing off the offending pests, but also killing off the beneficial insects that were coming in to take care of your problem. If you must spray, choose your products carefully, opting for the least toxic product specific to your immediate problem.
(Yeesh…that pesticide is drifting far and wide…even ours from a small spray bottle can do the same.)
-Water features like birdbaths or saucers offer beneficial insects a source to drink from. All living creatures need water, and beneficial insects are no different. If they can’t find it at your house, they’ll fly the coop in search for it elsewhere.
(Your water feature doesn’t have to be huge. Just check it from time to time.)
-Allow a few pests to reside in your gardens. This is what is going to attract the good guys. The good guys will lay their eggs where there are pests so that their young have a food source. It can be a struggle not to reach for a spray or granular product that will eliminate a pest problem most readily. However, most organic gardeners still opt for natural pest control, and know they have to deal with a little wear and tear on their gardens and landscapes in order to have a completely pesticide-free environment. Gardening is NOT a perfectionists hobby.
(Don’t panic, a few pests will lure the beneficials in.)
-Plant a garden full of nectar and pollen plants, as well as plants of different heights. Bees and moths are examples of beneficial insects that don’t eat pests, but work tirelessly to pollinate our landscapes and need these plants for food and energy. For nectar and pollen, daisy-like blooming plants are great (zinnias, fall aster, copper canyon daisy), as well as herbs that flower (yes, let a few bloom. Plant some for culinary purposes, and some for the pollinators…dill, fennel, rosemary, basil (African Blue is amazing), mint, rue, bee balm and many more). Plants of different heights allow for a variety of beneficial insects to feel comfortable in their surroundings.
(It’s also okay to let some herbs go to flower and seed. One for you, one for me.)
-Provide mulch for those beneficial insects that stick close to the ground. It will help keep them cool and moist during the day, and they’ll crawl out at night to feast on slugs and cutworms during the nighttime hours.
(A bed of mulch is a perfect habitat for some of our beneficial insects.)
You can get started by opting not to spray pesticides, or at least ease into it by selecting one with the least toxicity (knowing that even insecticidal soap can cause harm to beneficials). You can start working on creating an inviting environment in your garden by browsing over the following list of plants that are great for attracting beneficial insects. Help them, help you and together we can all help rebuild and replenish our city’s ecosystem.
The Happy Gardener