One of the best lines of gardening defense is to fight bugs with bugs. Beneficial bugs are insects that are usually native to your area, eat harmful bugs that attack your garden and home, and are good for your plants and soil. Ladybugs, bees, wasps, dragonflies, ground beetles, lacewings, soldier beetles, and spined bugs are beneficial to your garden and yard by pollinating plants and preying on harmful insects. Their presence is crucial to a healthy ecosystem.
If you provide beneficial bugs with a good environment to hibernate, they will overwinter in your yard and emerge in the spring ready to take on harmful insects. Ladybugs, for example, eat aphids, scale insects, and mites, while some wasps eat the tomato hornworm that feasts on garden tomato plants. Ground beetles also feed on a wide variety of insects, keeping the influx of harmful insects in your garden and around your home in check.
To overwinter in your yard, beneficial bugs need ground covering, shelter from weather events, and access to food. Here’s how to ensure a healthy, beneficial, bug-friendly garden that will work to protect your yard and garden in the spring.
Bees and wasps are essential for a healthy garden. We know them as terrific pollinators, but they are also predators. Wasps are great hunters and feed on a variety of harmful pests. Check periodically around your garden and home and note where you see nests. Most bees and wasps will only sting if they are threatened. By giving their nests adequate space, you are allowing bees and wasps to protect your home and garden area from other unwanted pests.
Go Easy with the Rake
Resist the urge to rake up every lead in your yard. Leaving some leaves behind will provide a protective covering for insects and their eggs. Leaves from maple and oak trees are good for composting, will add organics to the soil, and will prepare plant beds for spring.
Grow Winter Plants for Bees
Some plants and trees bloom during the colder seasons in eastern Virginia, where the winters are usually mild. Nectar from the blooms can provide sustenance to bees that are looking for food during the off-season. Marigolds, rosemary, primrose, crocus, and hyacinth are reliable plants for winter and add beauty to your yard.
Keep the Perennials, Grass, and Some Weeds
Despite the bad rap, some weeds are good for the ground. Weeds often have roots that reach deeper than grass, making them a better anchor of topsoil and retriever of nutrients. A weed’s long root system is better at providing food, because they pull in more nutrients from the soil than short-rooted grasses. They also control insects better than grass. After allowing non-spreading annual weeds to grow, cut the plants before they go to seed and compost them. They can also be tilled under the soil or churned in a compost pile that heats to 140 degrees. This will kill the seed. Non-spreading annual weeds include chickweed, ragweed, purslane, and lamb’s quarters.