Good Garden Visitors

It’s time to welcome good garden visitors and set aside pesticides and insecticides. Let’s look at more environmentally friendly and less costly alternatives.

Birdhouses. Some birds feed larvae and caterpillars to their young and by doing so provide bug control. These homes are also good shelters for paper wasps, which are good pollinators for fruit trees. Having alternative housing also keeps paper wasps away from your house doors and windows.

Birdbaths. Add rocks and sticks to provide safe landing spots for small insects and keep the areas filled with water, especially when there are dry periods.

Toad houses. Use old broken ceramic pots turned upside down as long as there is a space underneath that creates a cool spot for a toad to sit in. Toads like cool, damp spots and will eat more than their share of destructive insects.

Plant a variety of flowers. Many predators and parasites feed on pollen and nectar or use flowers to supplement their food supply if they run low on pests. To attract the good bugs, also called beneficial bugs, add plants in the carrot family and mustard family. Use plenty of plants with small flowers such as sweet alyssum, dill, fennel, garlic chives, coriander, cilantro and white lace flower, cultivated version of Queen Anne’s Lace. Other popular plants for good bugs include: blanket flower, coneflower, coreopsis, cosmos, tansy, yarrow, goldenrod, sunflowers, yellow alyssum, sweet clover, buckwheat, and hairy vetch. Let a few of the broccoli plants go to flower.

Don’t be too rushed to escort that opossum off your property. Opossums eat fruits, snakes, insects, snails, slugs, eggs, mice, rats, fish, frogs, crayfish, and carrion. They are immune to MO venomous snakes and, through grooming, get rid of a lot of ticks. They are also nocturnal so if you don’t want to cross paths, start taking your garbage out first thing in the morning.

I found this young opossum napping in one of my compost buckets. Guess I locked it in when I closed the garage door the night before. Opossums are good garden residents, keeping snakes and tick populations under control. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Charlotte Ekker Wiggins is a gardener, beekeeper, and sometimes cook.  For more, visit gardeningcharlotte.com. Published by Kaleidoscope Weekly with permission. Copyright 2018, all rights reserved. This column may not be copied, published, reprinted, rewritten, or redistributed. Contact Charlotte at gardeningcharlotte@gmail.com.

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