Inside the garden, is a home for creatures big and small. To those who enjoy getting a little grub and dirt in their fingernails, to those who live under the leaves of the leafy greens and to those who choose to burrow in the Earth. All of these micro-bugs, and what may appear as a creepy-crawler to the curious kids that also have such a fascination with them, are certainly welcome in the garden.
With a good eye and a little digging, you can come across a large community of bugs in the garden that all work together to grow the foods we will eat. You can find the small orange eggs of a lady beetle with black spots neatly painted on her orange back growing, laid under leaves, or the eggs of a rove beetle nearby in the soil. These insects will help you manage your garden down to the smallest places, and ultimately they will make a big impact. Predator bugs help with the spread of pollen and eating nectar. When building soil, sowing plants, and the rotating of your crops has been taken care of, let the bugs get to work and do the rest.
To help take care for and ensure a thriving bug population, try out a fun experiment of building your very own Bug’s Hotel. Similar to a giant neighborhood, the garden serves many different homes for a diverse population of bugs. Because bugs aren’t very picky, they’ll gladly move into their own perfect home consisting of nature's gifts: rocks, sticks and leaves. No bugs should go homeless, and they always find the right conditions for a place to stay. So invite them to your garden, and they will go to work protecting it!
I sometimes wish I could shrink down to the size of a small ladybug, and wiggle around the garden to see for myself the works of all the big and little, ugly and pretty bugs that wiggle around eating the pests and helping you grow the foods in your garden, which all can be witnessed with a good ol magnifying glass. Without bugs, the garden would be overpopulated with pests and pollen wouldn’t be able to spread. So next time you shriek at the sight of a spider and go to squish it, stop to think about how that spider is helping your plants survive for you by eating the real villains of the garden. Unless it is in your home, then you should safely evacuate the arachnid outdoors.(Eek!). Pests make a great food source for predator bugs that help your garden throughout the year by munching and crunching down the pest population.
Creatures that can come around your garden with a high appetite for pests can range from coyotes and deer, to caterpillars and beetles. Pests like earwigs, and fire ants will be gladly eaten by these creatures. (Source #1) Pill bugs are one of the many underrated crawlers in the garden that help by eating dead and rotting material as well as controlling the pest population. (Source #2)
Another beneficial bug that is often overlooked is the worm. Yes what might appear as a snack to your curious 13-year old, or a weird-wiggler to your 7-year old girl, is actually a underrated superhero in the garden. The poop of worms is considered “the finest compost a gardener can find.” (Source #3) Worms are very low maintenance and will thrive in a compost bin that consists of your own recycled eggshells, raw or cooked veggies and fruits, and many other things that are typically viewed as garbage to be thrown out. With the exception of any meat, dairy and oil products. So next time you decide to throw out the end of the bread, throw it in the compost bin and you will feel a little bit better. In your compost bin you should also add a adequate amount of bedding, that can be made of brown leaves, clean sawdust shavings, or dirty paper towels and napkins. Banana peels and coffee grounds may not seem like a yummy meal to you and me, but properly composting these materials and spreading it in your garden can feed your plants with lots of nutrients and vitamins, including plenty of carbon and nitrogen to ensure amazing growth and a happy garden that also contributes to recycling and caring for the earth.
(Source #1) This is the beloved Corn Rootworm, it will help you out with crop rotation, encouraging the population of natural predators, and it will control the weeds.
(Source #1) This is a pleasant little stink bug, although it commonly gets a bad rep, the stink bug is very beneficial for your garden because it will help control weeds in the garden and Mr. stink bug comes with his very own insecticidal soap against nymphs.
Source #1 - “Pest Control Library.” Pest Control Library (National Gardening Association). N.p., n.d. Web 16 Nov. 2016.
Source #2 - Kyle “Pill Bugs Should Be Seen As A beneficial Garden Guest.” Pill Bugs Should Be Seen As A Beneficial Garden Guest. Avant Gardener, 29 Nov. 2011. Web. 16 Nov. 2016.
Source #3 - Tilth, Seattle. "June." Getting to Know Beneficial Insects, Kids Love Bugs (2001): 60-62. Maritime Northwest Garden Guide. Web. 26 Nov. 20-6. (The article from class!)
Gardening in Clay
In the Puget Sound region, much of the soil is a clay-loam mix or glacial clay. Clay has many beneficial properties, but it also has many qualities that make it undesirable. The upsides of growing plants in clay or clay soil is that it holds water for long periods of time and clay is also rich in nutrients. Because clay has the ability to hold water for long periods of time, it does not need to be watered often. However this also means that clay soils do not aerate well, causing many plants to essentially drown because their roots become waterlogged. Clay is very rich in nutrients, but these are difficult for plants to take advantage of because their roots often cannot penetrate clay.
The most difficult aspects of gardening in clay are the irrigation factors and the fact that clay is very heavy and hard to work with. As mentioned before, clay holds water for long periods of time, which waterlogs plant roots, and also creates puddles and muddy areas in gardens because of its slow drainage. Another problem with clay’s ability to hold water is that it becomes very heavy and hard to work with when it is wet. When you try to work with wet clay, you are only compacting it more and making your job even harder than it already is.
There are several ways to improve the clay in your garden and use it to your advantage. The first is to add lighter topsoil to help your plants to establish themselves. This could be imported topsoil, well composted organic matter, or mulch in the form of shredded leaves or small wood chips. Second, you could also use raised beds filled with topsoil. This does mean you have slightly less space to work with, but you do have a well established footprint. Because of clay’s slow drainage and ability to hold water for long periods of time, you should also irrigate slower than you would with other soils.
- Schoellhorn, Rick. "The Dirt on Dirt - Clay." Proven Winners. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Nov. 2016.