"When we tug at a single thing in nature, we find it attached to the rest of the world."
― John Muir
Despite most of the trees around here having shed their leaves, my Honey Crisp apple tree does not seem to know it is fall…its leaves are still a bright green colour. It suffered last year from a weed whacker"s blow with a loss of one third of the circumference of its bark and after the harsh Winnipeg winter, it looked dead in the spring. It was only a bare stick after all the trees had leafed out and the crab apples in the park were in bloom. So I was sad at the loss. We had already been without an apple tree for 3 years waiting for fireblight to loose its infectivity…our Goodland apple tree had succumbed to that disease after over 20 years of yearly production of hundreds of apples. So I expected to unearth that darkened stick and replace it.
Then the wonder of nature manifested itself with greenery about two feet from the ground….it was alive and it was the grafted tree not the root stock growing. And today another miracle….a small lady bug perched on the top of the tree that almost died. How incredible and amazing is that? I am proud that my garden is a haven for beneficial insects including ladybugs, lacewings and pirate bugs. I have seen them all. There are no chemical pesticides or herbicides in this sanctuary.
I had read about the amazing ability of beneficial insects to reduce pest insects in the garden and on crops in books about permaculture. I had also read about companion gardening. To attract these garden helpers, you need to provide plants and conditions in your garden that they like. Most people know about ladybugs and their help in reducing aphids. But there are many other insects that kill and control pests in a variety of ways.
If you don't use poisonous pesticides and herbicides and you grow a wide variety of plants you will have armies of tiny warriors killing and parasitizing harmful insects. Pollen, nectar and organic matter covering the soil provide our hard working friends with food, water and cover. We need to provide these provisions throughout the season for them.
In my garden the early nectar and pollen sources are grape vines, dandelions, welsh onions and our linden tree. Later wild climbing roses and chives bloom and are welcomed by my insect friends. Then Russian Sage and Goldenrod and the mints take over. I allow weeds such as climbing vetch and Asters to grow because I have seen many bees and other insects arriving at those plants. When oregano, basil, thyme and coriander grow and start to produce flowers, I usually allow them to continue even though I know the leaves will loose their flavour when these spices develop flowers. But I love to see the many bees and other insects visiting them. Without the use of pesticides, my small garden produces over 200 pounds of portuguese kale , huge boxes of tomatoes, a huge box of squash, many cucumbers, zucchini, carrots, swiss chard, lettuce, beets and onions. We have cherries, grapes and gooseberries. There is so much abundance.
Conventional farming, with its reliance on poisonous chemicals and its emphasis on monoculture with a lack of a wide variety of flowering plants has resulted in a drastic reduction of these beneficial insects. It then becomes a vicious cycle. Pesticides killing beneficials. Lack of floral resources for beneficials resulting in decreased populations. Then there is a need for even more pesticides. This results in even less beneficials and the cycle continues.
Yet what many organic and permaculture farmers have learned is that nature in its marvel will take care of these pests for us. And provide us with ample food. And reward us beauty and fragrance . And the garden that gives us our food is a wonder filled safe haven for birds and animals and children, and so importantly free of toxic chemicals.
Lets make that world for our fellow creatures and for our children and their children's children. When we are selfish and greedy, we always get less. Lets be generous…it is not all for us and was never meant to be. When we care for the earth with the reverence it deserves, we will receive so much more in return.
These are some wonderful resources about beneficial insects and the plants that support them
Below is a video discussing organic pest control
Manitoba is where I was born and where I have spent most of the five and one half decades of my life. I lived on the outskirts of the town of Portage La Prairie at a time when tadpoles and frogs inhabited the ditches and ponds, when there were many Monarch butterflies each summer along with dragon flies and grasshoppers. Redwing blackbirds perched the cattails of the ditches. As children we picked dandelions for bouquets and made wishes before blowing dandelion seed heads. We searched clover for lucky four leaves and rolled on the grass…there was no concern of poisonous herbicides. The grass was thick. Wherever we dug…there were earthworms