Holistic Pest Management: Integrating Beneficial Insects Into Your Garden

Vego Garden
Vego Garden

Time and time again, pests will creep into your garden with a vengeance. To curtail the rise of pest populations, both farmers and gardeners have turned to toxic elements and chemical controls.

However, it has become clear that those methods present a mounting danger to the environment, degrading over time and seeping into the water system.

Biological controls remain the most salient alternative to pesticide control methods. Fight fire with fire by attracting beneficial insects into your garden to prey on garden pests.

Integrating beneficial insects  into your garden has been shown to reduce pest population of aphids, moths, bugs and mites by up to 40 percent.  

Steps to Conserve Beneficial Insects

Holistic pest management is crucial for long-term sustainability and productivity, and hinges on the conservation of habitats for beneficial insects. Food, conservation of habitat, and water sources are recommended, but not always feasible for gardeners, so many opt for growing companion plants.

Some insects, such as bees and butterflies, pollinate crops and rely on native wildflowers to complete their life cycle. Others take the roles of parasites and predators – nefarious sounding terms – but necessary in the natural world.

Infestations are unavoidable, but remember that chemical controls should only be used as a last resort. In that case, biopesticides are recommended, as they are safer and more selective. 

  1. Plant Annuals and Perennials with Accessible Nectar Sources 

Many beneficial insects have short mouthparts and will need an easy way to access nectar sources in the summer and spring. To maximize your chance of attracting pollinators, research what butterflies are common in your area and select native flowers that cater to them. Choose flowers that have umbels, spikes, or cups to facilitate nectar feeding:

The Umbelliferae family (Umbels): Features flowers in umbels or feathery, umbrella-like clusters, such as fennel, dill, yarrow, parsley and carrot; many are aromatic herbs 

The Asteraceae or Compositae family (Composites): Characterized by composite flower heads and small flowers, often with petals fanning out in star-like formation; includes asters, sunflowers, yarrow, and chamomile 

The Brassicaceae family: Not only restricted to garden vegetables like broccoli, the mustard family also contains flowering plants, such as sweet alyssum and candytuft 

Herbs: Choose herbs with spikes, such as lavender, and those from the mint family; mountain mints in particular are known to attract a diversity of insects including bees, flies and beneficial and parasitic wasps

  1. Interplant Crops with Flowers and Herbs 

A vegetable garden can seem boring, mostly a teeming colony of green that will be dead and gone by winter. To maximize space, many gardeners will plant crops with flowers or herbs. Not only will they attract beneficial pollinators and repel pests, but they will also add a veneer of aesthetics to an otherwise dreary vegetable garden.

Vego Garden has a set of herb beds that are recommended for corralling in more aggressive varieties of herbs, such as mints, as well as the standard 9 in 1 modular garden bed, which has a depth suited to most common garden plants. 

  1. Use Raised Garden Beds to Integrate Multiple Habitats  

Raised garden beds are a great way to incorporate multiple habitats into your garden, especially with the special shapes collection. Configure multiple raised beds into intriguing layouts or place one near a patio for an easy-maintenance wildlife garden.

These can be situated near ponds or hedges to create an intricate, multi-layered garden or used separately to brighten up eyesores in the yard. The multifaceted mosaic of a pond, with its rustling susurrus of croaking frogs and gossamer-winged dragonflies, presents one of the most enjoyable habits to study, but colorful clumps of wildflowers can also achieve a mood-lifting effect.  

  1. Leave it in Place  

Leaf litter is a natural component of the forest floor but seldom seen in gardens. However, there are several benefits derived from leaving leaf litter on the ground. Butterflies rely on it for sustenance and hibernation in the colder months. Plants traditionally maligned as weeds – dandelions, daisies, and violets – should be reconsidered and left to bloom. The more enterprising can consider creating a woodpile; there are a smorgasbord of creatures found underneath the woody detritus, interesting if not always pretty: salamanders, frogs, toads, and beetles. 

  1. Let the Wild Things Grow 

Drive through any suburban vista and you will be beset by manicured lawns and paved patios in straight delineation. However, for the lazy and those that eschew modernity, letting the grass grow seems like an obvious solution.

If pesky neighbors aren’t a problem, consider dedicating a portion of your yard into maintaining a prairie garden – the only mess you’ll want to tend to. The tapestry of prairie plants, ranging from the delicate to the rustic, are an eclectic and sometimes chaotic blend that teem with native insects. Allowing native plants and wildflowers to reign freely fosters biodiversity by emulating the natural landscape of a prairie. You need not solely use native flowers: black-eyed Susans, cardinal flower, pasque flower pair nicely with zinnias and other cultivated non-natives. 

  1. Create a Flourishing Habitat with Compost

Avoidance of pesticides is important in contributing to a stable habitat, but a holistic approach calls for adjustments on the micro-level. Vego’s in-ground worm composter harnesses the digestive power of worms to produce rich, nutrient-dense compost perfect for raised garden beds. This enhances the soil and promotes a flourishing habitat of soil decomposers and invertebrates. Unlike traditional composters, worm composters are unlikely to attract unwanted pests due to their lack of bad odors – and are much easier to use. 

  1. Identify Beneficial Insects 

Summery butterflies and rotund ladybugs are much beloved, but there are other beneficial insects that are less appealing and get inadvertently killed by less knowledgeable gardeners.

When tending to your garden, look for those beneficial critters. It can be hard to believe that predatory wasps, with their elongated, ant-like bodies, are on your side, but these killers are important in culling the larvae of pest caterpillars, beetles, and June bugs. Praying mantises are known for their voracious appetites, but continue to be a welcome sight in gardens. 

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