Keeping a healthy garden might be easier than you think, despite our steamy Southeastern summers. Constant rain combined with warm temperatures can increase the pressure of insects and diseases. While some may try to solve the problems with pesticides, those harsh chemicals aren’t good for you or your garden in the long-run. If you want to keep your plants healthy and save yourself the trouble of using unnatural products, consider organic solutions to help balance nature in your garden.
Good Bugs versus Bad Bugs
Insects that prey on other insects can be the gardener’s friend. While mostly known for their bright colors, ladybugs are a friendly form of natural pest control. A single ladybug can consume up to 60 aphids per day but will also eat mealy bugs, leaf hoppers, mites and various larvae that feed on your plants. We release thousands of beneficial insects this time of the year on our farm in Jonesville to combat whitefly, aphids and spider mites. We have even introduced a tiny species of wasp the size of a pin head that targets soft-bodied insects like worms and many types of flies.
Interplant Species for Success
Biodiversity is natures original system of healthy planting, so why not borrow the concept in your garden? Break your plants into different families based on their nutritional needs and match them to other plants that have beneficial aspects. For example, the yarrow (featured in an Alachua garden below) attracts predatory pollinators that will patrol the rest of the garden. Those pesky caterpillars chewing on your roses do not stand a chance if you interplant the right perennials like yarrow or blue mist shrub to harbor good insects.
Plant a Wildflower Border
A wildflower border does more than attract pollinators to your plants. Planting wildflowers creates a seed and nectar rich habitat for birds and butterflies. Many native species like the Black Eyed Susie will drop their seeds and increase in number every year. A strip of native wildflowers can actually lure undesirable bugs away from your vegetable garden.
American Beautyberry: the new mosquito repellant?
In traditional folk remedies, the American beautyberry is known for being a natural insect repellant. While many folk remedies have no scientific basis, research at the United States Department of Agriculture has confirmed that the American Beautyberry contains three naturally occurring chemicals that work as repellants. Those who use the beautyberry as repellant crush the leaves and rub them onto the skin to keep off mosquitoes, ticks and other biting pests. Though some researchers are looking into producing the repellant for mass consumption, it is years away from being available in the rest of the United States.
Photography Provided by Cottage Gardens, Inc.