Gardening Without Chemicals

I believe that one of our missions at Backyard Bird Shop is to help our customers encourage biodiversity in an effort to create a thriving wildlife habitat. One easy step is to discontinue the use of pesticides, herbicides and chemical fertilizers. I know of garden care services such as Trugreen Lawn Care North Carolina that offer outstanding lawn and garden care with rare use of chemicals (to many other states also) which is a good practice to maintain, the use of chemicals can damage and destroy plants, shrubbery, animals, your pets and furniture – if you’re looking for new furniture to replace old or damaged furnishing, teak garden furniture is a popular choice by many.

As a gardener, I know discontinuing the use of pesticides, herbicides and chemical fertilizers takes some education and time to seek out alternatives. I realized over the years that my garden eventually found a balance. Yes, I still have pests in the garden, but they don’t do irreversible damage and I have learned to tolerate a few weeds. A couple of garden helpers you can find at the Backyard Bird Shop are ladybugs and beneficial nematodes.

Ladybugs are friendly garden bugs which are native to our area. Unlike preying mantis or other predators, ladybugs don’t eat everything in sight! Remember, 95% of all insects are beneficial to us. Ladybugs are especially helpful with garden pests that are small and soft-bodied. A few food favorites for ladybugs are aphids, whiteflies, thrips, and spider mites.

A couple of customer concerns have been brought to my attention over the years: Several folks have mentioned having an “infestation” or swarm of ladybugs in the walls of their houses. Ladybugs that hibernate in walls of homes are Japanese ladybugs that were introduced many years ago to combat pests in citrus orchards. Since then they have spread and often inhabit walls of homes. The ladybugs you can purchase at Backyard Bird Shop are NOT this variety and they don’t have this troublesome habit.

A second concern that I hear is that after releasing ladybugs, they’ve left the garden. Remember that after releasing ladybugs, you may have to look closely to find them. While each package contains 1500 ladybugs, once they are released they disperse to find food and water. Check under leaves and branches to find the ladybugs feasting on insects. Watch for ladybug larvae after about a week. First time ladybug releasers might be surprised to find ladybug larvae, which are rather odd-looking insects, and mistake them for pests. Ladybug larvae eat even more garden pests than the adult ladybugs.

After many years of gardening, one thing I have discovered is that insects and wildlife like biodiversity. Gardens that are diverse with many levels of plant material are more attractive to insects, birds, butterflies, bees, and all wildlife. Releasing ladybugs doesn’t offer a “quick fix” they way a chemical application might, but it does offer a first step towards encouraging natural insect controls into your garden. If you find that the ladybugs seem to disappear, try adding more plants to your garden to create a habitat that will encourage them to stay. Alternatively, if you’re trying to rid of pests such as birds, using an anti bird netting system (such as those found here – https://www.apexbirdcontrol.uk/service/anti-bird-netting-chichester) can help keep them away so your garden stays in pristine condition. This is another great alternative from using chemicals instead, therefore not harming the wildlife.

Beneficial Nematodes offer another form of pest control, working at ground level to combat over 200 pests. Strawberry root weevils, crane flies, and flea larvae are common pests that folks purchase nematodes to control. Nematodes are microscopic worm-like creatures invisible to the naked eye. Like ladybugs, they are safe to use around people and pets. Apply nematodes to the ground using water to wash them into the soil where they attack garden pests. An application every six to twelve months in the spring and fall does the most good—cool, moist weather is the best time to do a successful application.

One thing is for certain, using biological controls for garden pests is educational and rewarding. It is another step towards creating a yard that is healthy for you, your family, and your birds.