5 Steps to a Bee-Friendly Garden
Know your plants. Choose what to grow based on your local environment and begin to prevent infestation even before you plant. Research which plants fare best in your area and in soil conditions, and carefully monitor plant health so you'll recognize signs of infestation later on.
Buy organic. Begin with untreated seeds or organic plant starts, and plant them in organic soil. Ask around for a trusted neighborhood nursery or seek out suppliers who have demonstrated a commitment to growing organic. Keep an eye out for providers who've signed the Safe Seed Pledge.
Know your pest. Learning to recognize your pests is an essential first step in eco-friendly gardening, as you can target your attention on the uninvited guests and keep your essential predators safe. To get a closer look at what you're dealing with, post sticky cards in your garden to trap a few of your pests.
Be pesticide-free. "In a backyard situation, pest insect problems hardly ever become so overwhelming that a pesticide is required," says Dr. Eric Mussen, UC Davis apiculturist and honey bee expert. "There normally is some physical way to detach the insects from the plants — picking, dousing with a hose, etc. We have simply become too used to squirting our problems away with toxic chemicals." The internet is full of safe and chemical-free solutions, from using organic items that naturally repel certain insects to planting trap crops to lure pests away from the threatened plant.
Know your natural predators. It pays to know who's on your side. Most people know ladybugs can be counted on to take out aphids, but plenty of bugs have a whole host of enemies out to get them. Parasitic natural predators contribute a lot to pest management, says Dr. Andrew Sutherland, Urban Integrated Pest Management advisor to the San Francisco Bay Area. In the right numbers and conditions, insects like lacewings and parasitic wasps can provide great pest control, but only if you provide them the resources they need to survive. Make sure your garden has enough flowers to keep your pollinators happy and healthy, recommends Dr. Sutherland, and you'll have a tiny pest-control army.
Image via iStockphoto/manve
Julie Eng is an editorial intern at Sierra. She studied literature and anthropology at the University of California, Santa Cruz and wrote for several newspapers before joining the Sierra team.