Some people fight fire with fire. What about fighting bugs with bugs? You might feel you don’t want more bugs in your garden, because they are already eating up your plants. But some bugs munch on other plant-eating pests. Called “beneficials”, they eat aphids, mites, scale, thrips and other pests.
You can invite these “beneficials” to dinner with plants that produce lots of pollen and nectar. Ladybugs are attracted to zinnias, daisies, sunflowers, asters and yarrow. They also like herbs such as parsley, dill, anise, and cilantro. If you grow such plants near your plants plagued by aphids and other ladybug food, the ladybugs will help you out by making a dinner of the pests.
Watch out for the hungry ladybug babies. You might not recognize them, but ladybug larva can eat up to 40 aphids a day for you. These black and blue larva, kind of long like an alligator, have bright yellow, orange, or red markings. They not only eat more bugs than their parents, they stay around when the adult ladybugs move on. It is said that each baby ladybug can eat up to 5,000 aphids during its total lifetime. So take good care of them.
A Gardening Tip --
Mulching is a great way to gain several benefits at once. It can keep your weeds down, keep the soil temperature cooler, help keep your vegetables up off the soil for less rotting problems, and when it decomposes it greatly improves the soil.
Straw makes a great mulch, as well as hay. But one has to be careful with hay because of weed seeds and grass such as bermuda grass or johnson grass. Some people use wood chips. Actually, any plant material that decomposes can make good mulch. As it decomposes it uses nitrogen, so for mulch that is slow to decompose, like wood chips, it helps to add a little nitrogen, or mix something in with it like chicken litter.
Most mulch will have disappeared after a winter of rainy weather. But it really didn’t disappear; it converted into humus and enriched your soil. What can beat that?