The mere mention of bugs in your vegetable garden causes most gardeners to quiver in a combined state of fear, anger and anxiety. But is the local infestation of insects a cause to throw in the towel and just buy your vegetables from the local grocer, instead of trying to grow. If insects had a PR representative then he is doing a very poor job, as the public perception of insects in the garden is one of woe and despair, but there are many more good insects that frequent your garden, than there would be criminal ones. First lets look at some of the rarely glorified heroes of the garden.
The praying mantis has a pretty heavy rep in the garden. As one of the largest insects found in your garden, they are right at the top of the macro food chain. These well camouflaged insects are generalist predators which mean they are more interested in the bugs attacking your vegetables, then they are in the vegetables. These are a good ally in your garden.
These little critters are generally about 2-3mm in length and are normally unseen, unless you rustle up some leaves or ground cover. These insects get their name from the springing motion in their tail. Often mistaken for fleas, springtails are normally a shade of white or grey. They are normally found under mulch or under pots in your garden. Springtails are a powerful composer as they feed on the leaf matter, and speed up the degradation of organic matter. Because they feed on decaying matter, springtails can be a useful friend in your garden. If large numbers of springtails start taking over your vegetable patch then they can start attacking small seedlings, and plants might start to be weakened, but generally they are a welcome addition to any garden.
Lady Beetles/ Ladybugs
Not only are these one of the most dynamic looking insects that you will find in your garden, but they also are one of the most productive. Lady Beetles are like security guards for your garden, they get rid of a lot of unwelcome creatures. One of the most devastating insects for your garden is aphids, and they are one of the Lady Beetles favourite meals. The odd Lady Beetle in your garden should help you sleep better at night.
How to encourage good bugs to your garden?
In order to encourage the “bug eat bug” ecosystem, and therefore setup a valuable vegetable growing garden, it is important that you make your garden a welcoming environment for the good insects. Most of the insect predators use pollen and flowers for food, so it is important to sustain the predators year round by keeping different flowers at bloom throughout the year. One of the best plants to add to your garden to introduce beneficial bugs is dill. When dill is left to flower it is particularly appetising to beneficial insects, and can therefore entice the insects into your garden.
Avoid using insecticides, as not only will this kill all the insects in the garden, but it will prevent the beneficial insects from returning, therefore allowing the garden to be a free land for the bad insects to take over when the potency of the insecticides wears off. The non-discriminatory effect of insecticides will do more harm than good to your garden in the long run.
Insects can be a useful part of your gardens ecosystem if they are controlled in the right manner. By using sustainable methods to encourage beneficial insects to your garden, your garden will provide you with more produce and be more self-sustaining.