I highly recommend attracting some minions to your garden to do some of that work for you. Minions come in all sizes and shapes. We paid for some mercenary minions (nematodes and lady bugs) last year.
I brought in some dirt the last two years and I got grubs. Lots of them. While it was too late for last year’s chicory and squash, I went ahead and ordered some beneficial nematodes to kill off the grubs. I got one of those garden sprayers and ordered my nematodes from the Ladies in Red. I will be ordering more this year. If you clicked that link to their website you will see that they are effective against tons of garden pests. I can’t wait to dig into my garden this year and see if there are fewer grubs to be found. I wish I had chickens, I would feed them so many grubs.
We also had aphids last year, so many aphids. I massacred aphids by the thousands with my DIY aphid spray, but they just kept coming. It was a cole crop blood bath, aphids sucking the life out of all my kale and collards. Then they started into the corn tassles. Something had to be done, so we hired some lady bugs from the Ladies in Red. I can’t even describe to you how much fun we had releasing lady bugs into the garden. We’re not kids, but we were totally giddy with lady bugs all over our hands, arms, backs, you name it. If you have kids and you have a garden, this is a match made in heaven. As much fun as they were, they also got to work and ate some aphids. They are now living in my bathroom with the spider until spring arrives.
I have one in the bathroom, but you should see how many I have in the garden. You don’t have to do anything to attract these guys, and they will work for food (bugs). All you have to do is not destroy them when you see them. I know it’s hard, but I promise, it is worth it.
Slightly harder to attract than spiders. Make sure your yard is safe for toads, no toxic chemicals or cigarette butts. Then create a hiding spot (or two) for the toads. A pot turned on it’s side and half buried works, but a hiding spot with two exits is better. Make sure it is in a shady place, under the plants. Toads also like rock gardens with a source of water. (This also attracts butterflies and bees!) Toads will eat lots of bugs.
If you think you don’t have enough worms in your yard (a.k.a. you don’t see worms every time you turn the soil like I do) you don’t! You should start a compost pile immediately. If you need guidance, I heartily suggest the Humanure Handbook. While it does have information on composting manure (as the title suggests), it also has loads of information on every other type of composting and it is well written and funny.
Butterflies like flowers of course, but they also like a shallow source of water. It’s great if you have a stream or a pond, but if you’re like me you’re not that luck. Place a shallow dish with some rocks in it and fill it till the rocks are are almost covered to create that shallow water effect the butterflies like. Butterflies are pollinators but they are also just nice to have around. Like many of the more pleasant bugs, they need habitat especially in the city. Which is good enough reason for me to plants lots of flowers.
Bees! (and wasps and flies)
Bees are pretty easy to attract if you have plants with any type of flower. We have a local apiary so we have tons of bees. Bees are the workhorses of pollination, but don’t forget that many types of wasps and flies are perfectly harmless and will also pollinate your plants. If you aren’t seeing a lot of pollinators in your yard, remember, don’t use pesticides. Try planting flowers of different shapes and colors, in clumps by type. One beneficial garden flower is marigolds which help confuse pests with their strong scent. I can tell you marigolds are easy to grow and the seed is easy to save to regrow them the next year. If your grass is looking a little thin, try introducing clover as a ground cover.
The great decomposers of the world are fungi! You might think they are unsightly (I don’t, I like them) but they are doing great things in your garden.
Can be taught to eat slugs. Enough said. I wish I had chickens. They will also eat all kinds of pests in your yard. If you live in the country, guinea hens will eat the ticks. Guineas are pretty loud, so you can’t keep them in town. Chickens not only eat bugs, they also eat kitchen scraps and then they poop out fertilizer. You can release them into your garden after harvest and let them eat all the weeds, scratch (till) and mix the soil with the fertilizer. You do not want to let them unattended in your garden with small plants, but there are some larger plants they can scratch around.
Oscar the Cat
Kills every rodent and bird that peeks it’s little head in our yard. This has been very beneficial to my garden, if detrimental to the local wildlife. I no longer have squirrels digging up all my newly planted pots and beds. Unfortunately he also kills toads. Big frownie face for that one.