William Moss, Master Gardener with the National Gardening Association is back again with tips for creating and maintaining a healthy garden. Today he’s at the historic Oatlands in Leesburg, Virginia, to talk about an essential topic: pollination.
Who lives there?
Have you ever stopped to think about the sheer numbers of creatures that inhabit your garden? It’s abuzz with activity all the time! A lot of those creatures are what Moss terms “good guys,” who help you’re your gardening efforts throughout the summer season.
And of course, it’s in every gardener’s best interests to attract the “good guys” to their garden! So having a plan of attraction-attack is a good idea. Moss divides the “good guys” into two categories: the insects that pollinate the plants in your garden, and the insects that eat the others—the “bad guys—that you don’t want in the garden.
Control by predator
He gives some examples: the dragonflies eat the mosquitoes, the praying mantises eat the grasshoppers, and the ladybugs eat the aphids. This latter group is especially important, as aphids can be a major blight in your garden. The most natural way to control them is with their natural predator, the ladybug. In fact, using ladybugs to control the spread of aphids (and protect tomatoes, peppers, roses or other plants) that they’re often imported and used expressly for that purpose.
So it’s important to plant a garden that’s pollinator-friendly. While you’re thinking of all the plants that you want to have in your garden, think also about those that your pollinator friends would like to see! Choose wildflowers and old-fashioned varieties of flowers, which are nectar and pollen-rich plants. And pay attention to the calendar: planting a succession of blooming annuals, perennials, and shrubs is he best way to ensure that there’s something available for pollinators throughout the entire season. Don’t forget that butterfly larvae need to grow: they love milkweed, dill, and fennel, so plant some of those, too.
Also, remember that these pollinators need a place to hang their hats, so to speak. Make sure you ensure their shelter and safety: they have predators, too, and they need a place to rest and take care of their offspring. Keep a section of your garden wild (a hedgerow is ideal) for ground-nesting bees. If you’ve got some lawn cuttings, find a sunny place to dump them and let them decomposes slowly. Don’t take down that dead tree yet! It’s filled with places for nests for butterflies.
Do it naturally
So plant colorful annuals, herbs, and a lot of flowering perennials. All those things who have a lot of nectar and they will bring in the good guys to help fight against some of the bad guys.
Beware of pesticides: they can kill the good guys along with the bad guys. So use a pesticide that’s a contact killer, so you can pick and choose; or, better still, use none at all. An organic approach is both safer and more effective.