Garbage in, Garden Out, The Recycling Gardener, Birds and Other Friends
Nature is always complex
Gardening for birds is a perennial favorite.
Flowers such as nasturtiums and other wild flowers attract birds which feed on nectar or on bugs or seeds from the flowers.
Remember that if you poison bugs you will either discourage birds by eliminating their food, or poison birds by poisoning their food.
Birds add so much to the garden. Not only splashes of color, but also inset control and even some fertilizer. More than that, they add to the pleasure of the garden with, again, colors and motion but also their sounds.
Gardening for Butterflies and Humming birds can be an enjoyable past time. Both are a delight to watch and the plants that attract them can be colorful and welcome additions to the garden.
Think of how many commercials you see with children running and interacting in some way with either bubbles or butterflies. This is because that image makes people happy, a child enjoying their childhood.
This reminds me of a cartoon where the family dog brings a toy for his master to play with him and the man just looks at it and returns to reading his newspaper. The dog then thinks, “Maybe that’s why is nose isn’t wet.”
One problem with scouring a garden if everything that drops on the ground is the lack of fruit on which grow fruit flies. Believe it or not, fruit flies are the hummingbird’s primary source of protein. So fruit on the ground or even placed up in a tree, but allowed to rot will help attract hummingbirds to your yard. Mostly, they need flowers for their minute by minute sugar fix for those hyperactive wings, but they still need to build that tiny body using protein and some of those amino acids are essential meaning they have to eat them as the amino acid, get them from protein directly. They also eat small spiders, wasps, beetles and ants, so, again, a living garden is needed to support our fine feathered friends. I have seen them cleaning leaves of whiteflies.
Of course, the larger the bird the larger the bug they might eat, but also, the more the diet tends toward diversity, and in the case of bugs, this means larger birds eat larger bugs as well.
Bugs can follow similar ways. Gnats and mosquitoes are eaten by the larger gal nipper, but all are eaten by the damselflies. When hungry a dragonfly may eat a damselfly, both are in the same order of insects.
Birds of one type or another will eat them all.
So, while you stop to smell the roses, also plant some flowers that attract birds and butterflies.
Friends in the Garden
Lady bugs, praying mantis, Hover Flies, Dragon Flies, Bees, Lace Wings, lizards, birds, and bats are all friends in the garden, attracting them helps control the bug population, thou my wife objects to the number of lizards we currently have.
Buy lady bugs, praying mantis at the local garden shop.
Make room for bugs. Wipe out all the bugs and two things can happen, first, the birds leave because they have no food, or, the birds eat poisoned bugs before they die, and the bird is poisoned. The poisoned bug may not kill the bird, but will shorten its life. Second, without helpful bugs, if there is an invasion of harmful bugs, you can be overrun and this usually leads to another round of poisons.
Hover Flies are those wasps, really, and they look like small wasps, but they do not sting and rarely bite, unless you happen to be a caterpillar, house fly (green fly) or a fruit eating Spider Mite.
Green Lacewings are about the size of a termite, but completely green, and have large clear (gossamer) wings. Like a termite they fly slowly, but they eat Mealy Bugs, Aphids, Spider Mites, White Flies, Thrips and scale insects, in other words, they have a tooth for the insects that such the life out of your plants.
Lady Bugs are everyone’s favorite. You should familiarize yourself with its evil looking but very helpful larval stage. The little larva eat like the adults but do not have the shell and wings as of yet, so are small crinkly little black bugs with bite colors on them. Note that the legs are all up front just like they will be once they metamorphose into the adult beetle.
One more you may not realize if a friend and it comes again in two stages, the larva and adult stage and they are very different. They tend to live around sandy soils, and if you live in the area you probably know the larva as an antlion that dings a cone of sand into which fall ants and other arthropods which they then bury and eat. The adult is also a lacewing but not as pretty as our green friend above. They are called antlion lacewings, sometimes “Doodle Bugs” because their tail drags through the sand and it looks like someone doodled on the sand. They do this to find egg laying areas and lay their eggs right in the sand.
Something you can watch for is the web it spins for a cocoon. It is circular and about 1-2 centimeters under the surface of the soil. When we were young we though these were trapdoor spider doors and would destroy them not knowing that these were beneficial insects. The reason for the larger cocoon is that the adult is rather large in comparison to the larval stage.
A take-away from this discussion is that many gossamer winged insects are very helpful to the garden. Flies and termites are exceptions, there are a few others. Even watch for flies that twitch their wings like wasps. These are actually wasps, and predatory to many insects that are harmful to the garden. Again, the gossamer wings.
If you have soil like mine, there are places that are simply too rocky to plant or dig in without a jackhammer. Here is a dilemma: you want to raise carrots but your pick hits rock and hardpan about an inch below the surface.
My solution was to take some 2x12 redwood and build a large bed around the area I wanted the vegetables. We simply lagged them together. Now I can grow my carrots, tomatoes, potatoes, grapes, blue berries, and so forth!
What I should have done before starting to fill the beds was a 1” layer of newspaper to keep out the roots of the nearby Tangerine, but my carrots love it.
My son has planted lots of unusual things, Habanera peppers, blue berries, peppers, beans, strawberries and rosemary (actually just outside the bed). Now I have cemented in a frame of iron for grapes and this year they are particularly bountiful.
Another raised bed is for flowers, Irises, Roses, Spanish Broom, and Lavender all appreciate the one foot of soil on top of the rocky ground below.
There is even a raised bed under trees, so in a shady area.
Herb garden as insect repellant, grasshoppers don’t like cilantro, horehound, garlic, but in general a nice herb garden keeps many insects out of your garden, and particularly those that damage crops. The increasing use of "Society Garlic" as a landscape plant has decreased insect populations in many landscapes.
Be mindful, we do need bugs in the garden, but the fewer leaf eaters, the less pesticides people will use, and then we will see more birds and they can control the others.
This is a "Balance of Nature" issue that isn't hard.
If you need greater control, please use organic controls or you will make mother nature mad. It isn't nice to fool mother nature, or so the ad said.