Monday, March 5, 2012

Crazy Gardening in the Southwest

This morning when I walked into the living room, the television was on and set to the weather channel.  I sighed nostalgically as I noticed that the temperature at my former home in the desert southwest was a gorgeous seventy degrees.  This was glorious compared to the eighteen degrees I had stood in, shoveling snow, just an hour before.

It then occurred to me that it’s almost time for early spring planting in that area.  Home gardening was always very enjoyable for me, and this time of year was full of opportunities. 

I’d like to pass on some bug control information to those of you that live in that area.  Specifically, I wish to tell you what I’ve discovered from my own experiences.

1. Don’t use insect control chemicals. 
Even the organic ones.  Sounds crazy, right?  It’s actually not.  Rather, plant a nice balance of flowers, herbs, and other vegetation and stand back.  Flowers bring bugs, yes, but they bring several different types of bugs - including bugs that eat other bugs.  All those bugs, in turn, bring hungry birds.  Bonus!  It’s all about having a good balance.

2. Let a few weeds grow. 
I’m not telling you to let them grow to their hearts’ content, but rather let a few grow until they start to flower, and pick them before they go to seed.  Controlled growth is what we’re aiming for.  The reason for this is that insects will often flock to weeds, choosing to gnaw on them before they approach your more important plantings. 

I discovered just how beneficial weeds can be last year.  The ant problem in my city was overwhelming.  Even my own yard had what I considered to be an insanely huge population.  After a while, though, I noticed that my “ant problem” was smaller than just about everyone else’s.  Closer examination showed me that the ants congregated around the small knotweeds (prostrate spurge) that I allowed to grow until just big enough to easily pull up (about six inches in diameter).  Because they preferred that weed, they left the places that I walked through alone, making gardening a much easier task.

3.  Leave the aphids alone. 
For a long time I had tried various organic methods to control aphids on my concord grape vines.  Then, one day, I gave up.  Nothing was working, after all.

That year I had the smallest aphid problem ever.  Once I stopped trying to control the population, ladybugs popped up from all over to do the job for me.  They helped keep the balance, and I had a wonderful grape harvest, even giving grapes away to family and friends.

4.  Caterpillars munching on your herbs aren’t necessarily a bad thing. 
I had always had bad luck with parsley.  No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t get a nice bunch of it.  Then, one day a swallowtail butterfly swooped in and laid her eggs.  The larvae were voracious, and ate my parsley all the way down to the stems.  I was sad, but since I was used to not having a good supply of parsley anyway, I walked away from the problem believing myself to be defeated once again.  A few weeks later, the healthiest supply of parsley I had ever seen was growing where the caterpillars had done their work.

In simple terms, what I’m saying is to just leave it all alone.  Make your hands your weed control tool.  Let beneficial insects take care of your problem bugs.  If the beneficial insects aren’t showing up, research what plants draw them in, and plant them. Soon, your garden will be overflowing with life, and healthy because of it.

Sure, doing this means that you have to spend a little time in your garden at least every other day, but if you’ve taken the time to plant the garden you should take the time to enjoy it.  I’m a lazy gardener, and prefer to let nature do most of the work for me.  This method, therefore, has proven perfect for me.

No comments:

Post a Comment