The Simple Things….continued

I started off my Friday post with a quote from a previous post about “sometimes doing the simple thing is also the best thing for our pollinators.” I sort of intended that post to be about pollinators and then it wasn’t. Sometimes that’s how it works out.

What I had in mind there was that rather than bringing out the big old can of spray every time we see a weed or an insect, there are really much easier approaches to dealing with both. I know I’ve talked about my “Freedom Lawn” (aka lawn full of weeds like clover and violets) as being a lawn that’s beneficial to lots of pollinators.

In preparing an upcoming lecture on pollinators, however, I was a little startled to discover that 5 different species of butterflies, as well as my beloved ants, use the clover and violets as food sources. And I know I talked last year about how the clover was sort of “detouring” the rabbits away from some of my perennials and vegetables. It’s working so far this year as well (with a little encouragement for my rescue dog, Amie, as well!). That’s what I call freedom!

I’ve also talked in the past about how some customers in my retail gardening past would come to me, puzzled, because they would have no vegetables in their gardens. I would ask them if they saw any bees and they’d say no. Then I’d ask about their insecticide use and inevitably they’d be doing a chemical 4 step lawn program and a grub program and probably something else as well.

So I’d try to gently explain that bees were very susceptible to pesticides–the grub control in particular most likely was one of those dreaded neonicotinoid type pesticides–and that they might be working at cross purposes by at best driving away all the bees and at worst killing them. I’d say that if they didn’t want to be hand-pollinating their crops they might want to back away from the pesticide use a little.

This was always very unwelcome news and was usually resisted quite strenuously. And then I’d tell my story about the butterflies. It’s really simple and very effective.

The year before we got married–but I was dating my husband and gardening on the property–I noticed there were no butterflies.  Hmm, I thought, this is strange. What’s wrong here? So I started to read up on them and found that they were very susceptible to pesticides. At that point, way back in 1994, I decided that we weren’t going to use any because I’d rather have butterflies than perfection.

By 1996, when I applied for certification as a backyard habitat, I counted 36 different butterflies and moths on the property. Technically that was only 2 springs without pesticides. It doesn’t take much. Stop using pesticides and they will come. It’s the simple things…..




God Bless The Ants

I’ve talked about scale–not the kind the dieters fear; this is not that kind of blog–but the insect pest kind.  Back in December I had some photos of the nasty little critters on a staghorn fern.  And sure enough, here they are again, on my variegated citrus.  They seem to love certain types of plants and citrus and ficuses are their particular favorites.

And if you remember this blog from last year, you remember me talking about ants.  Ants are one of the organic gardeners best friends.  They pollinate plants, they aerate the soil and yes, they even eat other critters for you.  All you need to do is look at the above photo for proof.

I was away for a long weekend last week and when I got back I was making the rounds of the plants–looking things over to see what needed deadheading, what had grown, what was looking a little peaked.  That’s how I found the parsleyworms yesterday and that’s when I noticed the ants all over this citrus.

When I moved in for a closer look, I noticed the plant covered with newly hatched scale.

Normally I’d just cringe–or I would if it were winter.  In the summer I’d just drag the hose over and blast these babies off with a good strong burst of water.

But for now I’m going to watch for a day or two and see what the ants can do.

By the way, another “garden pest” that loves to eat the scale off plants are wasps.  Sometimes the so-called pests can really be your friends, particularly if you’re trying to garden without chemicals.