2006-09-01 / Columnists

The Diary Of A Green Thumb

A Cure For The Common Bug
by Danielle McShane, Rockaway Florist

DANIELLE McSHANE We have all learned to deal with the pest next door, the pests at the office, but pests in our garden? No way! Any gardener would agree that there is no room for pesky bugs. They are chewing holes in our leaves, spreading plant disease, and they are invading our precious gardens. It sometimes feels like an uphill battle to rid of these pests, but I have a few tips that might help.

There is a long list of insects that reside in our garden, each appearing at different times of the year. As the weather changes and we get a bit closer to the fall, we will see yellow jackets, hornets, spiders, caterpillars, slugs, crickets, aphids and bumble flower beetles, just to name a few.

Using commercial insecticides can be harmful to the "good" bugs as well as the "bad" ones. They are harmful to humans, pets, and to our environment. After all, they are designed to kill, and otherwise affect living organisms. I believe in finding a natural way of getting rid of these insects, even if it takes a bit more work, and a little longer to see the results. To do so, we must learn a little bit about the cycle of life in our gardens. Predatory bugs are essential to the natural form of pest control. We can nurture this idea by growing plants that attract beneficial insects.

The lady beetle, also known as the ladybug, is considered a gardeners best friend because they contribute to the control of a large part of the pest population. They are a natural predator of all soft-bodied pests including mealy bugs, spider mites, white flies, and aphids. The aphid, also known as "plant lice" are one of the most troublesome pests that gardeners may have to deal with. They can cause injury to plants by sucking sap and juices from new plant growth, and can infect healthy plants with viral diseases from other plants. Lady beetles are known to eat about 5,000 aphids in its lifetime. Just imagine if we were able to create a colony of lady bugs in our garden. That's an incredible way to rid of a large number of pests with a natural and easy cure!

You might ask how to bring ladybugs to your garden. It is best to create the right conditions so that the ladybug can establish a colony, grow in large numbers, and return to our gardens every year. To do so, we must provide a constant source of food for the ladybug. Angelica, white cosmos, scented geraniums, and yarrow all attract the lady beetle. Herbs such as dill and cilantro, fennel, caraway, wild carrots... even weeds such as dandelions can provide a feast for our friend, the ladybug. As long as they have a cluster of leaves to hide beneath on those scorching hot days, and a safe place to lay their eggs, we can welcome these helpful and colorful friends to our garden each year, and eliminate those pesky pests once and for all!

Do you have questions or tips for our readers? Email me at the following: Daniellesflorist@ yah oo. com.

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