When most people think of garden bugs they assume the kind that devour innocent plants before they can reach their prime or spread their seeds. While there are plenty of insect species that are harmful to healthy gardens there are just as many species that thrive in gardens by devouring the aforementioned pests.
Many of these insects will either help by pollinating your plants or by controlling the population of pests. Let’s take a look at the top 10 insects you’ll want to keep around your garden.
You might be tempted to keep praying mantises around simply because of how majestic they are. However, don’t let their grace fool you; these guys are ferocious predators that feed on all manner of other bugs including aphids, grubs, crickets, flies and grasshoppers amongst many others.
While bees are great for providing us with delicious honey they are also essential for the lifecycle of many plants. They are one of the world’s best pollinators and in some regions are the only effective ways to pollinate large amount of plants.
This tiny and colourful insect is a treat to have in the garden just for its visual appeal let alone its caretaking abilities. Ladybugs devour large amounts of pests including aphids, scale insects, whiteflies, lice and many other problem bugs.
Butterflies are not only beautiful to have flying around but like bees will actively pollinate plants and encourage the growth of new plants around the garden. They carry pollen and fertilise other plants which generate newer seeds.
Lacewings are the number 1 predators of aphids and whiteflies both in adult and larval stages. The female lacewings actually lay their eggs in the colonies of whiteflies and aphids so that the lacewings larvae can have a feeding frenzy.
Lacewings larvae are however very susceptible to attack by ants that seek to protect the aphids, so keeping them around means fighting off the ants.
Dragonflies are another great predator to have in your garden. They will happily eat mosquitoes, whiteflies, flies, moths, fruit flies and larvae.
Most people accept that the presence of earthworms means that the garden soil is healthy. Earthworms are useful for aerating the soil and controlling the pH of the soil.
Not dissimilar to regular bees, bumble bees are slightly larger and hairier but are less likely to be aggressive towards humans. Fruit trees are especially good at attracting bumble bees.
Alright, a lot of people are squeamish of spiders but let’s face it, they’re the top of the food chain in the world of creepy crawlies. While spiders aren’t insects (they have 8 legs not 6) they are one of the biggest insect eaters and many people keep them around their garden during summertime to reduce pesky mosquito numbers.
Ground beetles are nocturnal hunters and eat a wide array of other insects as well as their eggs. When you find these guys, don’t kill them but let them police your garden from insects that are harmful to you plants.
Plants are living things just like us and are able to get sick just as easily if precautions aren’t taken. Just like our homes, our gardens need to be well maintained in order to make sure the environment and everything in it remains healthy.
One of the biggest disasters for any gardener is when a plant becomes diseased and this disease spreads around the garden. Often people will become overwhelmed and write off their garden as done for when the disease gets out of control.
For a plant disease to thrive in your garden, 3 conditions need to be satisfied. These conditions are:
- A pathogen
- A host
- Environmental conditions that promote the disease
If you eliminate any 1 of these 3 conditions, you can successfully prevent the spread of plant disease in your garden. Let’s take a look at the top ways to protect your garden from plant disease.
Examine plants for disease before buying
The best way to prevent disease from spreading in your garden is to never introduce it in the first place. A good way to do this is to screen all of the plants you buy to make sure that they are healthy.
It’s good to examine photos and diagrams that explain what a healthy plant looks like. You can then train yourself to quickly identify which plants are liabilities to your garden.
The quality of roots is something that not enough people check when buying plants. Ideally roots should be bright and abundant in a healthy plant, not dark and mushy.
Remain vigilant against insects
While there are plenty of garden insects that are beneficial to plants, there are just as many if not more that are detrimental. The damage these bugs to do plants is not only cosmetic as they can bring with them nasty bacteria and viruses.
Sometimes the best way to control problem insects is to introduce a natural predator like spiders or a praying mantis. A healthy garden will rely on these predators to shepherd the plants and protect them from opportunistic bugs.
Clean up during the fall
Leaving lots of dead plants and leaves around creates and environment where diseases can thrive. Big piles of dead leaves that fall from the tree during autumn should be cleared away before diseases establish themselves and then start infecting new leaves in the spring.
Alright gardeners, time to be honest; how many of us really follow all of the planting directions on each and every plant? Perhaps we’re in hurry or just too lazy to do it properly, regardless these plants usually end up in a shallow hole with some dirt kicked around it.
Considering how carelessly some people do their planting it’s no wonder that so many plants never survive the first season. Planting correctly can make all of the difference in whether the plant lives or dies.
While a lot of rooted plants will involve similar planting techniques on the surface, there are subtle differences that can play a big role in the survivability of the plant. You should always pay attention to the packaging of a plant as it is a clue on how to plant it properly.
Let’s take a look at how to plant correctly.
Bare-root plants are popular because they allow gardeners to inspect the root system before burying it in the ground. These plants are lightweight but they should always be planted before springtime bud break.
- Make sure to keep the roots wet and moist, although the plant is dormant it still requires water to survive.
- If the plants roots are dry then place it in a bucket of water for a few hours prior to planting so they can be rehydrated.
- Cut off damaged or turned inward roots prior to burying them in the soil.
- Make sure the hole is dug deep and wide enough to allow the roots full freedom to expand.
Container plants are always popular especially with new gardeners. They are grown above ground level in pots with artificial soil, making them easier to control.
- Make sure you always remove the plant from the container, don’t bury them together even if the container is bio-degradable.
- Tease the root system out a little bit in order to promote its long-term growth.
- Cut out all of the thicker roots to prevent girdling.
- Dig the planting hole to be 2 or 3 times wider than the original container so that roots have free space to grow.
Large shrubs and trees are most commonly seen packaged in this style. They are harvested with soil surrounding the roots in a burlap sack.
- Like the other plants, dig a wide and deep hole so that the roots have plenty of space to expand.
- Halfway backfilling with water will reduce pockets of air and keep the plan stable while you carry out successive steps.
- Remove all of the wire and twine around the plant.
- Finish the backfilling.
- Allow water to settle round the roots.
As a gardener you’ve probably spent a significant portion of time on weeding and the novelty of tearing out these intruders wears thin pretty quickly. Before you know it weeding has become a huge chore in the upkeep of your garden and naturally you want to find ways of reducing the time you spend doing it.
You might be surprised to know that weeds are a natural response by gardens to fill in spaces without any plants. Part of controlling weeds is training your garden not to use them anymore.
Let’s take a look at some basic steps for controlling weeds in your garden.
Leave sleeping weeds alone
Each and every square inch of a garden has weed seeds hidden underneath but only the seeds in the top layers of soil ever get germinated. When you dig a hole or manipulate the soil in some way you allow these seeds to move closer to the surface and increase the risk they will germinate.
When planting or removing something from the soil, use a fine blade and make sure to disturb as little of the soil as possible. Cutting out weeds by their roots is more effective for long-term control than digging them out.
Mulch is great because it works to keep the soil moist and cool as well as preventing light from reaching weeds. Good organic mulches can contain beetles and crickets that actually feast on thousands of weed seeds in your garden.
Weed when the weather is good
New gardeners likely haven’t fully adjusted to a schedule that allows them to keep on-top of weeds and it’s best for them to keep the area well-mowed until they are ready to take on the job. When it has just rained it’s best to pull out the weeds one-by-one, when it’s dry it’s better to use a hoe to cut the weeds at the roots.
Chop their heads off
If you want a quick solution that will stem the tide of weed seeds spreading through your garden, simply chop off the heads of weeds that you see around the garden. Certain types of weeds will spread their seed during certain time of year so make sure to get in there before that happens so that you efforts will be effective.
There’s nothing worse than to spend all this time decapitating weeds only to find they have already seeded the surrounding area.
Summer is when you are going to get the most use out of your lawn. Whether you are hosting a party or simple just enjoying the hot sun, having a healthy lawn throughout the summer months is important.
As well as it being the time of year when it is used most, it is also a time when it needs the most care to ensure that the sun doesn’t dry it out and that it is getting the required nutrients and water at a time when rain is often of a premium.
There are a few simple measures to ensure that your grass stays looking beautiful and green for the entirety of the summer so that you can be confident your backyard will be in good condition for the next BBQ.
In the hotter months, the grass is going to grow a lot quicker than it usually would as it is getting more sun for longer periods as well as the days just being longer in general. This means that it needs to be mowed regularly in order to keep it healthy and looking good.
Ensuring it doesn’t become overgrown makes it easier to care for. Regular attention will keep the grass happy and help it to maintain a rich green colour.
Stay on Top of Weeds
Weeds are part and parcel of any backyard but staying on top on them is important to maintain a healthy garden and a beautiful look. Weeds can end up kill some of the grass by taking away nutrients. Some even attract other animals that can do damage to your grass.
Basic weed killers will be enough to remove weeds and keep them gone if they are treated swiftly. When moving, it is crucial that the weeds are removed beforehand to reduce the likelihood of spreading.
Regularly Feed and Water
In times of really hot weather, the lawn should be water every 2-3 days to maintain its colour and health. It can easily dry out in hot weather and the watering helps to both cool it and maintain moisture in the soil.
Feeding the lawn with the appropriate nutrients may be necessary if it appears to be struggling in the heat and can be identified through brownness or empty patches.
Maintaining a healthy garden can sometimes be seen as a big task and in some instances, it may well be. However, for the majority of people living in suburban areas it is really simple as long as it is attended to regularly.
- Take care of budding plants
Many plants are often budding when the weather is hot or at least hotter than usual. If the plant isn’t receiving the right nutrients or sufficient water then these flowers are going to drop off quickly and you won’t get to experience the beautiful colours.
Know when your plants are going to bud and put some extra care into them during this time. Regular watering and fertilising is important and putting new mulch in will also help.
- Help pots to stay cool
Plants living pots are going to heat up a lot under the hot sun so make sure you move them around a bit to give each plant equal time in the shade. It is important to keep potted plants cool at the roots to encourage growth and also keep them healthy.
Placing them in a saucer with wet sand is the most effective way to keep them cool as a saucer filled with water only encourages root rot and mosquito breeding.
- Water in the morning
Water you plants in the cool of the day is going to give them the best chance to actually soak it all up and make use of it. If you water plants in the hottest part of the day, it is likely that a lot of this water will just evaporate.
Watering in the morning is best as it means that the plants are moist for the hottest part of the day and that they are dry come night time so they don’t become affected by mildew.
Regular fertilisation keeps the plants happy and healthy and gives them the strength to resist periods of no rain or sun. Fertilise weekly where possible but monthly at a minimum to maintain the nutrient levels required.
- Keep an eye out for pests
This is one of the most important steps to maintaining a healthy garden. Pests will slowly kill plants and can ruin the aesthetic. Sometimes it is often difficult to notice if a plant is being attacked by a pest and by the time you do, it’s too late.
Knowing the basic signs for various diseases and pests nesting within your plants is pivotal to keeping it healthy.
Garden insects and pests can often be difficult to identify and sometimes they aren’t noticed until it is too late. Being able to identify them and the damage they are doing to your garden will go a long way to keeping your backyard healthy and looking beautiful.
These tiny little pests are green, pear-shaped and have two little tubes sticking out the back of their abdomen. They can be found on most garden plants however are commonly seen on flowers, fruits and shade trees.
To remove these pests, wash your plants with a strong spray of water or for more severe cases, use a hot pepper or garlic repellent spray.
These maggots, unsurprisingly, are found on all plants related to the cabbage family. The insects tunnel in through the plants roots which either kill the plant immediately or provide a clear channel for diseases to enter through.
To prevent and remove these pests apply floating row covers and mound wood ashes around the stems.
Caterpillars can more often than not be easily seen on any affected plants. Should you not be able to see the insect itself, they leave very distinct holes in the leaves of the plants. Some may even dig into fruits.
To prevent and remove caterpillars, encourage predators like spiders and birds that will eat them as well as covering your plants with floating row covers.
Azalea Lace Bug
These tiny, black pests are active in the spring months. They hide underneath leaves and suck at the sap which will leave a white or silver mottling on top of the leaf. To get rid of these pests spray the affected plants with a broad-spectrum insecticide on both sides of the leaves and repeat after 5 days.
Bronze Orange Bug
These bugs favour citrus trees and can do serious damage. These insects are often referred to as stink bugs because when they are alerted will spray a bad smelling chemical. Their larvae are round and laid on the underside of leaves.
The insects suck the sap which causes shoots and leaves to die. They can be treated with Confidor or simply spray on a diluted detergent.
These are small reddish-brown pests that move through the mulch and leaf-litter in your garden. They regularly feed on fruit and vegetables. There are insecticides that can be bought to kill these bugs or ‘Beat-a-Bug’ can be used as an organic alternative.
Starting your own backyard vegetable garden is a great way to get fresh, delicious ingredients all year round and can be a great feature for any backyard. For some though, it can be a daunting task actually going out and starting it.
With this basic guide, it is really easy to start your own backyard vegetable garden and the best part is you don’t need a big backyard. There are a variety of ways that it can be put together.
Pick your Location
The amount of sunlight that the vege patch is able to get on a daily basis will determine what vegetables can be planted. For an area that gets 6+ hours of sunlight a day (on average), you can plant all different kinds of plants. However, there are a lot of plants that can be planted in areas of only partial sunlight.
Make sure the chosen location has easy access to water and has good quality soil or is able to have good quality soil added. The chosen location must also be big enough to hold the desired plants.
Determine Your Vegetables
Once you know your location and the amount of sunlight that it will receive you can determine what vegetables you want to plant. If the area gets little sunlight then lettuce, broccoli and beetroot can be grown whilst most root vegetables can do with only a few hours sunlight a day.
For areas that get a lot of sunlight, all vegetables can be grown. Popular choices include tomatoes and cucumbers.
Determine the Type of Planter
There are many different ways that you can plant your vegetables and it doesn’t always require huge amounts of space. If you don’t have the space in your garden but have a large enough veranda or balcony, then the garden can always be don’t in pots. This reduces the number of plants but nevertheless allows you to have them grow and each fresh vegies.
The most popular choice for this is the garden bed or raised garden bed. This involves making a rectangular shape using wooden planks and weed sheeting to create a closed off area for the plants to grow. Once the bed has been installed and filled with nutrient rich soil, the vegetables can be planted.
Plant the Seeds
Planting the seeds is a simple step and the only thing that needs to be remembered is to water them regularly. When planting the seeds, it is important that you turn over the soil to help aerate it and give the plant a chance to grow out into the soil.