Protect & encourage beneficial species in your garden this winter with these easy tips…
As gardeners, pests are always a challenge. It might be tempting to just spray your garden with insecticides, but if you are an organic or sustainable gardener, you recognize that there are many insects and other creatures that are very beneficial to have in your garden. Protecting and encouraging these beneficial species in your garden can actually help to naturally reduce unwanted pests and damage to your crops.
There are lots of ways to encourage these beneficial species to take up residence in your garden and yard. Some of these methods may even help reduce the amount of work you’ll need to do! For example, leaving some dead flowers and grasses in your garden over the winter can help to shelter beetles, centipedes, and other beneficial insects, and provide food for overwintering birds. A compost or leaf pile can also provide shelter against freezing temperatures.
If you’re feeling like you need a break from all the hard work of your summer garden, this is a good excuse for a more hands-off approach to fall gardening! 🙂 Delay some of the cutting back and tidying up until spring, when temperatures are on the up and bugs are less reliant on shelter for their survival.
Don’t disturb these peaceful winter refuges:
Stems and seedheads: Standing and fallen plant stems and seedheads are prime winter shelter for insects such as ladybugs.
Ground patrol: Many bugs take to the soil or leaf litter for shelter, including bumblebees and moth pupae. If possible, don’t disturb the soil!
Sheds: Butterflies often sneak into sheds and other outbuildings to escape the chill. Make sure there’s a gap for them to leave when it warms up.
Long grass: Maintain areas of longer lawn over winter to provide shelter for bugs such as caterpillars. Log and leaf piles are also invaluable.
Here are a couple of other suggestions from ModernFarmer.com:
What could be easier? Designate an out-of-the-way corner of the yard as a place to pile up leaves and cut branches, which serve as habitat for many reptiles, mammals, birds, and insects.
Perhaps you’ll even attract the noble stag beetle, an enormous insect with fierce-looking (but harmless) pincers, which requires rotting wood to reproduce (and is endangered in some regions). Add to the top of the pile as often as you like, but otherwise, leave it in place and let it rot.
Bat, Bird and Bee Houses
You don’t have to be a master carpenter to hammer together a piece of bat, bird, or bee habitat – and there is good reason to do so: Bats and many birds eat pesky insects by the thousand and native bees (which, unlike honey bees, do not sting) are critical pollinators for native plants. You can even build a house for owls, which are masterful hunters of rodents.
If the conservation of threatened species is your goal, be sure to find a design suitable for the winged ones that you wish to offer refuge.
With birdhouses, for example, the size of the entrance hole may be varied to discourage certain common birds, while encouraging others that you’d like to see more of. Native bee “hotels” are typically designed with accommodations for multiple bee species in a single structure. With bats, the color of the house makes a big difference – not because of the bats’ aesthetic preferences, but because dark-colored houses hold more of the sun’s warmth (better in cold climates), while light-colored ones reflect it (better in hot locales).