There’s nothing more frustrating than planting a beautiful garden with high hopes and dreams for a good harvest or loads of colorful flowers, only to have that garden overrun by pests. Chewed leaves, stems stripped bare of their foliage, and munched-on fruits and veggies dampen the spirit of even the most determined gardener.
But these pests can be kept under control by attracting the good bugs like ladybugs, lacewings, spiders, and praying mantis. These beneficial bugs prey on and eat the pests, so luring them into our gardens is one of our first tactics.
Many of our natural areas have been replaced with houses, businesses, and other structures, leaving less and less habitat for these helpful garden allies. Our job as organic gardeners is to do what we can to recreate their habitat in order to maintain balance in the garden.
If pests like aphids, cabbage worms, earwigs, and cutworms are doing a number on your garden, here are some good practices that attract the good bugs. Remember, these bugs need food, water, and shelter in order to do their jobs, so that’s what we’re going to provide for them.
- Keep the soil covered with organic matter — shredded mulch, straw, and compost keep the dust down and help create a positive environment for the good guys.
- Avoid using any harmful chemicals. Synthetic pesticides may indeed kill your aphids, but they might also harm the insects you’re trying to attract.
- Grow a variety of flowers with different bloom times including yarrow, aster, black-eyed Susan, and goldenrod. Plants with tiny flowers offer nectar to bugs with short mouthparts.
- Create protection from heat, rain, and predators by planting a range of leafy plants and adding mulch and leaf litter. Planting larger shrubs nearby is another good option.
- Offer water in the form of puddles and wet leaves. If you have an overhead irrigation system, that will suffice. If you have drip irrigation, try putting out a garden saucer with pebbles and water. The pebbles give the beneficial bugs something to land and step on so they don’t drown.