Pesticides — even organic varieties — are not the safest, healthiest or most effective natural pest control options. The addition of certain plants to your food garden or farm will encourage biodiversity and a healthy population of beneficial garden insects that act as Mother Nature’s best organic pest control.
Not all insects are a threat to your garden plants, and many of them are actually helpful in fighting off other plant predators. Beneficial insects are broadly classified into pollinators, predators and parasites. Pollinators, such as bees, fertilize flowers, which increases the productivity of food crops. Predators, such as ladybirds and a host of other ‘bugs’, consume pest insects as food. Parasites use pests as nurseries for their young. On any given day, all three ‘P’s’ are feeding on pests or on flower pollen and nectar in a diversified garden. If you recognize these good bugs, it’s easier to appreciate their work and understand why it’s best not to use broad-spectrum herbicides.
The use of herbicides and pesticides can be detrimental to the complex relationships between plants, pests and predators. Pesticides, even organic varieties, make no distinction between helpful and hurtful insects, in the end their regular use can have many negative impacts, including the suppression of the soil food web and pollution of waterways. Instead, encouraging the presence of predatory warriors that will defend and protect your garden plants from common pests is not only an environmentally sound management strategy, it also encourages biodiversity and plant pollination.
You can keep your pest population under control by adding plants to attract beneficial insects. A general rule of thumb is to designate between 5 and 10 percent of your garden or farm space to plants that bring in beneficial insects. An important key is to plant so that there are blooms year-round — the beneficial insects will not stay or survive through a season if no food is available. Your garden will be beautiful all year-round with a variety of colourful blooms and humming insects.