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Garden Basics: Bugs

Controlling/preventing insect pest in the garden
Even the most experienced growers have problems with insects in the garden. Bad bugs can be a chronic detrimental problem for the garden. Below, in no such order, are tips on controlling/preventing insect pest in the garden:

  • Identification is key. Knowing what kind of insect you are dealing with can help you in finding ways to keep the population down or eliminate it completely.
  • Limit the use of insecticides. Only use insecticides as a last resort. Because of the harmful effects due to insecticides be sure to ask yourself:
    • How specific is it to the target pest?
    • What are the harmful effects to human life?
    • How long will this chemical remain active?
    • Where potentially can these chemicals spread?
  • Avoid monocultures. Grow a variety of plants to encourage biodiversity. Insect pests can become susceptible to one area when only one crop is growing.
  • Use row covers. Row covers allow light to still make contact with your plants while keeping insects out. Covers are light enough to simply move when it’s time to water.
  • Hand pick insects. For initial signs of infestations, some insects can simply be hand picked from the plant. This is typically a good practice for small gardens.
  • Use big predators. Big predators such as chickens and ducks love to feast on slugs, beetles, and cutworms.
  • Rely on natural predators. Natural predators such as lady beetles feast on pesky aphids. This occurs in the natural habitat and doesn’t cost money, or risk and harm to human life.
  • Use an integrated pest management approach. An integrated pest management approach integrates several different solutions while avoiding the use of chemicals. These practices are often common sense solutions. For example, growers will choose to plant varieties that are naturally resistant to pest according to their specific growing region.
  • Remove potential habitat space. Tires and other places in the garden which may hold standing water should be removed.
  • Develop a control strategy. Be vigilant in your garden, and develop a strategy in the initial stages of infestations. Insects are easy to control when populations are smaller.
  • Do Nothing! Sometimes doing nothing at all fixes the problem. In nature, problems often find solutions all on its own through natural processes.

How to attract beneficial bugs
Not all bugs found in the garden are bad. Some insects can be allies in the garden by killing off the most destructive pest. Below you’ll see tips on how to attract beneficial bugs:

  • Lure beneficial insects. Planting their preferred host plant. Plants with bright showy flowers and plants that are extremely fragrant for example:
    • alyssum, sunflowers, lemon balm, and parsley
  • Know the difference between predators and parasitoid. Natural enemies suppress pest.
    • Predators – Prey directly on host
    • Parasitoids – will deposit their eggs on or into their host. Young will feed and develop within the host
  • Plant beneficial plants. Plants not only provide nectar but shelter. Dedicate between 5% – 10% of your garden to beneficial plants.
    Beneficial plant types include:
    Basil, Clover, Dill, Yarrow, Sunflower, Fennel, Lavender, Thyme, Chives, Milkweed, and Mint
  • Use stones and rocks in the garden. Beneficial insects prefer cool areas.
  • Purchase beneficial insects at your local garden shop or from online resources.

    Here’s a list of common insects found in the garden

    Good Bugs – Lady beetles, Ground beetles, Praying mantis, Hover flies, Lacewings, Bumble bee, Green Lacewing, Lady bug, and Praying Mantis

    Bad Bug – Aphids, Cabbage Looper, Caterpillar, Cutworms, Slugs and Snails, Armyworm, Fungus Gnats, Leafhopper, and Mites