Sunday, March 7, 2010

Embrace your bugs

Most gardeners love birds, butterflies and the like. A lot of gardeners think they are doing their part in offering a habitat for these beautiful critters to enjoy by providing annual flowers, trimmed landscapes and bird feeders.

Unfortunately, sometimes they do quite the opposite. If you use pesticides to kill grubs well, you are poisoning a food source for birds. If you spray your plants to remove what is eating them, you are poisoning a food source for birds. You probably wouldn't consider spraying insecticide on a butterfly, yet, if you spray caterpillars, you are doing that very thing. You wouldn't put fertilizer in a bird bath yet if you put too much weed and feed on your lawn and it runs off into a culvert or storm drain, somewhere down the line you are poisoning a water source that birds use.

Monocultures (vast expanses of the same plant) can wreak havoc by enticing one type of feeding insect resulting in an esthetically damaged looking garden. Avoid the problem! Diversify! Plant several different types of native plants. Like the look of all one color? Match up native plants of a similar color but different species to avoid the potential of having a damaged looking landscape. Different insects feed on different plants so if you have a lot of diversity, chances of an area being bare due to insect feeding will be lessened. Insects play a vital role in helping birds rear their young since insects provide better nutrition for fledglings which can't be found in all the store bought seed or berries you can provide. A bird feeder full of seed is nice so you can get a good view of what passes through your garden and is a great help in supplementing natural food sources during times of cold and snow, but the fact is, if you'd plant a landscape of native wildflowers and grasses and just not mow toward the end of season, the plants would go to seed and feed the birds naturally. Nature tends to provide what the local wildlife thrive on so think about stopping the fight against mother nature and embracing what she had done so well for years before we began tinkering and deciding "what looks good". Personally, I look at a yard with a manicured, green lawn and think it is just plain mean. No food potential for wildlife!

If you are unwilling to provide plants for caterpillars to eat, you are selfish if you call a spread of nectar plants a "butterfly garden". To only provide nectar source without providing plants used to rear their young is again....just plain mean. Relish in the fact that you are providing a continuation of a family when your plants slowly get eaten by the caterpillars. Consider the resulting chrysalis and the beautiful butterflies as the price for a little chewed up area of the
garden. If you aren't crazy about seeing your plants with some insect damage, well, hide them in a far off corner of your property. I personally love watching the process of life as it was intended and chances are that area of your garden would be my favorite.

No where in nature do I ever see carefully manicured lawns. Insects are an integral part of biodiversity. Pristine green lawns were created by humans....probably those with control issues. Nature wasn't designed that way, so design your garden the way mother nature intended...the resulting wildlife will be your reward for taking a different garden path!

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