Monday, September 19, 2016

Bee-Friendly Gardens: Controlling Pests without Harming Beneficial Bees

It's Bee Awareness Month here in New Zealand and the Great Kiwi Bee Count is in progress, so fittingly this month's Monday mini-series is all about the bees. We have posts on planting bee-friendly gardenscreating a bee-friendly environment on your property, controlling garden pests with bee-safety in mind, and tips for safely sharing your space with bees. This week, we're sharing some helpful tips for maintaining a healthy garden without harming your bees and other beneficial insects. This topic is particularly close to my green gardening heart, as I struggle with keeping things healthy as our warm wet climate is great for growing but also perfect for fostering fungal issues and other diseases, and insects of all varieties thrive, including the pests. So hard!

Kitchen Remedies for Garden Pests Plant Resistant Varieties   When choosing new plants for your garden, try to find ones that are well-suited to your local conditions for healthy growing (see below) as well as varieties that are resistant or at least resilient.

Companion Planting  Companion planting can help to support and protect your garden, with some companion planting options working as pest deterrents or sacrificial plants to lure bugs away from more precious specimens.

Crop Rotation  Some pests and diseases have very specific targets, and crop rotation can help to prevent re-infection and starve out infestations or at least encourage the pests to move on to better dining options elsewhere. Similarly, interplanting (mixed plantings instead of large areas of the same crops) can be helpful in limiting infestations or infections, as well as isolating and controlling issues before they spread.

Support Healthy Growing Conditions Keeping plants healthy can help make them less-vulnerable to pests and disease.  Good soil and feeding supports strong healthy growth.  Early watering so that plants can dry during the day can help to reduce susceptibility to fungal issues.  Ground watering to avoid wetting foliage on susceptible plants is also beneficial.   Note: I'm current experimenting with beneficial fungi soil treatments to help with our wet-weather disease prone soil risks. We'll see how that goes!

Keep a tidy garden, with fewer lures for problems, such as overripe or rotting fruits and veggies. Maintain tools in good working condition to reduce the risk of damage vulnerabilities, and cleaning between tasks/areas can help to reduce the risk of spreading infections or infestations. 

Use Non-Chemical Controls 
Depending on your insect issues, non-chemical options, such as hand-picking, covers, collars, or traps, may help to deter or control pests.

Welcome Beneficial Insects Welcome helpers like ladybugs, praying mantids, lacewings, etc. who prey on pests.  Plant attractive plants and flowers to lure them (herbs or companion plantings are great options) and take care not to eradicate them along with pests.  Spiders are helpers too, although they are less discriminate diners and will eat both good and bad insects.

Reduce or Eliminate Insecticides
Many insecticides are generic killers, affecting pests and beneficial insects, including bees. Avoid neonicotinoids in particular (linked to colony collapse) and if you must spray, consider using a non-systemic (pyrethrum, neem, oils, soaps, etc) to directions at early morning or dusk when the bees are less active in the garden.  Try to avoid treating on and around active blooms, as residue can linger in the nectar and pollen. As noted in gardening for bees, birds, and butterflies, also consider your sources for new plants to reduce the risk of systemic pesticides.

Take Care with Other Garden Chemicals
While pesticides post the most obvious chemical risk, ongoing research indicates that other chemical exposure, such as residual fungicide in consumed pollen, can render bees more vulnerable to parasites and disease.

The infographic above on safe/safer home remedies for common garden problems is an excerpt of a more comprehensive graphic and post at about discouraging and managing pest problems through non-toxic methods.  Check out the full post for more tips!

Have a tip to share?  We'd love to hear from you - comments are always welcome here, including related links if you wish to share.  To leave a live link, you can use the following format as a guide: <a href="">text you want shown for your link</a>.  Looking for more bee-friendly garden tips?  We'll have a new post every Monday this month, and you can take a buzz through our archives for more bee-related posts or visit our bee, bird, and butterfly gardening board on Pinterest.

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