Getting To The Square Root of Things! Part 2

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Pixabay Images

Doin The Dirt Eh Directory

April 2019

Getting To The Square Root of Things!

Part 2

Although SFG [Square Foot Gardening] didn’t work for me, l did happen to learn a lot of things for my first main season in 2017. Many of those learnings were put into action for 2018, and for this season more of the art will be put into practice.

In the raised beds in 2017, Suze and l tried our hands with plants that were hostile to certain insects, but equally we tried our hands at companion gardening as well as plants that were beneficial to insects and lured them in to the plants, but additionally allowing for insects that whilst providing benefits to our plant life, they were also quite hostile to predatory insects – l can say with hands firmly upon heart that balancing it all out was a but of a mindfield headache, and we didn’t get everything right, but the beauty of gardening is that it is forgiving and patient as a mentor to you.

So today l am going to look at beneficial plants and tomorrow l will look at companion plantings.

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Pixabay

Did you know that in the world today there are roughly about a million identified insect species? A million?? Of those just around the 1% are classed in the pest catagory. So you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to configure the obvious here.  Which is not every insect is a predator to us and our plants. I mean let’s look at the Ladybug above, they are in fact a true gardening friend. They will devour all harmful predators to your gardening, they are doing their job and we need to encourage more of them into our flowering and harvesting zones – Ladybugs are the good guys!

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They will eat aphids like the one above, but they will also tuck heartily into all other soft bodied nasties – mites, white flies and scale insects. Good news for us. Bad news for soft bodied bugs!!

Ladybugs will also look for pollen as a food source so herbs like cilantro, dill, fennel, caraway, yarrow and angelica are ideal for them! In another episode l will look at another serious passion of mine and that is weeds – yes folks l adore weeds! But for this post, even dandelions are loved by the ladybugs, so think about that before taking away a flower simply in the wrong place in your eyes.

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Geranium

But ladybugs are also rather partial to the likes of calendola, blue bottle, geranium, mint,mulberry and garlic, parsley and dill, which are all great for planting into either your beds [should you wish] alongside your vegetables, flowers and herbs.

I should imagine that most of my true readership know by now that l am also quite keen on conservation and something which alarms me is the plight to some if not many of our non-pest insect populations – in layman terms, many are on huge declines due to pollution and the effects of global warming. You see it’s not just the bees that are in danger but also many of the other species we DO need. The reasons for the decline are many fold, but sadly much of it is our own fault … although of course nature adapts to new changes as well and new species evolve but many are predatory.

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Ladybug

Other things which decimate populations are hybridisation of certain species of insects by ‘science’ , urbanisation by builders, pollution and of course global warming, but equally the uses of ever increasing deadlier chemicals on not just plants – but many people forget that these chemicals are in the air all the time around us. We no longer live in a climate where the uses of chemical is only restricted to certain areas – those days are gone!

I remember my days of growing up and especially in England and l recall seeing things that we don’t see now, or not to the same degree.  I remember more butterflies, and moths, ladybugs, bees and the list goes on. The friendly insects are fast disappearing whilst the aggressors are thriving! So the job we have as gardeners and producers of crop is also huge, we are not just looking at the likes of produce for our table, but we have an almost moral duty on doing everything we can for our fauna and flora alike.

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Classic Eggshell Moments

You may have heard me say, and l feel sure you have seen my design, but it’s true, none of us are too small to make a difference!

You know if we were to lose all of our insects at once, not just the non pests but the pests as well, our eco-system would collapse in on itself and our planet would start to die and rot, because the pests still serve our world a valuable service and that is they take care of the nasty side to the world – they encourage things to decompose, be that animal, human or plant matter we need them as much as we need the bees and the butterflies. Some simple facts are even more profound we need more green to produce more of everything in order to survive.

We need to encourage more people to grow for themselves, and the more growers the more green we have, the more pro-active sustainability we can perform, is more encouraging for our insect life as well as helping us to reduce these huge food wastes we see. I am horrified at the waste our society produces with seemingly no care in the world.

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Healthy Vegetables

But we come back to the topic of this post and that is the benefits of non pest insects in the garden – helping us and the plants themselves survive. You see, what many don’t understand is we don’t run the planet – we abuse it, the reality is more distinct – our planet is run and maintained by little things that get the job done – those little things are the insects and the getting the job done is cultivating the planet and keeping it healthy!

In my opinion running and maintaining an organic garden is harder work than a non organic garden, in the latter chemicals are used mostly to grow things and kill everything not wanted, but in the former you are trying to reach a sustainable balance which means that you need both non pests and pests alike or as l prefer to say ‘Hovers and Bothers!’ So this means we need a diversity of plant life that attracts both, but we then have to control the balance – and that is hard work! We replace chemical with an organic approach and the beauty many a time is that this is where beneficial weeds can come into play.

My perfect growing garden is flowers, vegetables, herbs and weeds and that’s difficult to balance.

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However, off my soap box … let’s continue …

You know aphids can turn up in your garden without an invite, they are garden crashers of the most prolific variety – one minute you have a few and then before you know it every plant seems to be struggling under the weight of all the activity! Which is why a healthy population of lady bugs would come in handy, and whilst they don’t specifically need an invite either, they prefer to party where they feel more welcomed as do most of the non pest like insects we want. You provide the right entertainment, food and drinks all round and you’ll be surprised how many good revellers turn up in your bed one night!

It wouldn’t harm a gardener to have somewhere that was able to support a rock show that had clover, alfalfa and dandelions growing freely.

You see who you are trying to attract is………

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Bees

How do they help you?

Pollinate your plants

Transfer and cross pollinate

Fertilize plants

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Butterflies

How do they help you?

They colour our world

They pollinate flowers

They eat weedy plants

They provide a food source for other animals

They are the amongst the first to tell us something about the environment by being there or being absent.

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Ladybugs

How do they help you?

Consume plant eating insects

Protect crops with their egg laying

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Ground Beetles

How do they help you?

Nocturnal hunters of larvae and eggs

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Lacewings

How do they help you?

Lacewing larvae consume aphids, mites, soft bodied insects and small caterpillars

Lacewings gather pollen and nectar as a food source

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Hover Flies

How do they help you?

Hover flies larvae is laid near colonies of aphids and upon hatching they start to feed heavily on the aphids. Each one can consume 60 aphids a day, each hatchery clutch of eggs is hundreds strong.

Hover flies gather pollen and nectar as a food source

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True Bugs – Pirate Bug

How do they help you?

They eat aphids, thrips, mites, whiteflies and insect eggs.

Lays eggs on leaves and when the nymphs hatch they begin feeding on the local population.

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Parasitic Wasps

How do they help you?

Non stinging wasps species

Will attack over 200 pest species in a garden

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So if you think about the 8 specifics above, and of course all the variations of the species themselves and more importantly what they can do for you and your garden, it’s quite a formidable allied force to have on your side, so to actually encourage them in, well that just seems logical. These are what you want to invite and have gate crash the hell out of the seasonal rock show!

What’s the invite going to consist of?

What you want to incorporate into your garden is a world shaped like that of an insectary where all these insects are going to want to visit and stay for the season, like attending a much longer Woodstock event!

A lot of the plants we have covered already, but to give you more of a detailed idea …

Sunflowers

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Marigolds

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Zinnias

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Fennels

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Lavenders

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Mints

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Angelica

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Parsely

ParsleyWebsite

Cilantro [Coriander]

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Crocus

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Honeysuckle

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Foxgloves

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Hawthorn

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Hellebore

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Bluebells

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Forget-Me-Nots

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Buddleia

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Geraniums

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Marjoram

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These are just examples and another thing is at the end of the season try leaving more in the garden to flower on as the insects will be hugely grateful and their presence in your garden will still be majorly beneficial.

Tomorrow, companion planting and trying to make some balance.

Thanks for reading.

9 thoughts on “Getting To The Square Root of Things! Part 2

  1. Love this article. Love the lady bug endorsement. It’s so true that we all need to pay more attention to our ecosystems and our own diets. Store bought food is so full of chemicals, toxins, steroids, and the like. It’s horrifying. When I visited Berlin, I took a train ride out towards the city outskirts. The train ran along the rear of neighborhoods. Every house we passed had its own garden, garden shed and composting area. It was inspirational! Many people in my area of the US are adding chickens to their yard to eat pesky insects.

    1. Hey Emily – thanks for stopping by and hope you are well today 🙂

      In the war years and heading to the sixties in the UK, backyard farming as it was once called was a prosperous activity for a lot of householders.

      However as the markets changed, and societies expectation and demands upon consumerism enlarged at an expotential rate, backyard farming started to disappear.

      At one time growers would only grow what they would eat and the waste was minimal and of course when money is tight ask any family how much true waste they have and they will tell you that almost everything is used and has a secondary use as well, in so far as left overs.

      When more fruits and veg became freely available, backyard faming almost vanished, more allottments sprung up, and there were fewer veg patches in peoples gardens as they developed a keener interest in ornamental gardening over food development.

      But in more recent times more and more people have become very aware to the benefits of growing your own again, to steer clear of many chemicals.

      This week, Suze and l have taken the final plunge and become pescatarian only, we were slowly heading that way due to allergies and intolerances, but also, l said this before somewhere else, l gave up red and white meats long ago, so it is not that big a move for me.

      It’s the inclusion of chemicals in the meat, and also the killing practices and l can’t abide that anymore emotionally, and if brutally honest l think in another year l will be full on vegetarian because fish have feelings too but also l think about all the microbeads in the oceans, which means we will need to grow more of our own.

      More people need to learn to eat what is in season also … of grief l have to stop, l could go on forver with this subject.

      Chickens are a good animal to have on board Emily, they provide free range eggs and l see Suze and l eating more eggs than we already eat. But chickens the little scallywags are great waste eaters, they eat insects, mice, snails … ha ha l think if some people thought about what goes into the making of their eggs they might stop eating them 🙂

  2. Great post! Thinking that the ladybug is the only insect that I’m not afraid off 😮🐞 Definitely is not easy to grow an organic garden nowadays.

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