It’s that time of year again! As the summer heat starts to wane, fall garden preparation begins.
A garden is a unique micro ecosystem. The soil, the sunlight and the moisture all affect the survival of delicate plants that are trying to take root. Of course, insects also play a role.
Novice gardeners sometimes make the mistake of thinking they need to eradicate all insects for the sake of their gardens, but in reality, bugs can help or hinder a fall garden. The quick guide below provides more information on five insects that you’ll want to keep in your garden this fall. Bonus: they can also help your garden in the springtime too!
You may have already heard that the bumblebee population is in dire straights. These pollinators are good to have around the garden no matter what time of year it is. They may not get rid of bad bugs, but bumblebees can encourage seed production and influence the health of your garden come spring.
You can keep bumblebees around a little longer this fall by planting aster flowers. A number of aster varieties bloom in the fall and into the winter. Small white asters and frost aster are two excellent options because they are late bloomers that can keep producing flowers up to December. Asters are ideal because they’re easy to grow and their nectar is easy to access.
Predatory Non-Stinging Parasitic Wasps
Some bugs help man and Mother Nature keep the insect population in check. Predatory non-stinging parasitic wasps are among this group. They are known to parasitize more than 200 pests including garden-eating grubs, cutworms and many caterpillars.
In order to keep these predatory insects and other pollinators around as long as possible you may want to forgo cleaning up the area immediately around your garden. Insects in this category often look for fallen leaves and debris to serve as their home during the winter. One recommendation is to leave your perennials as they are instead of clearing out around them.
Planting or putting sweet alyssum around your fall garden can also help attract non-stinging parasitic wasps. The best option is to plant a row or two in between rows of vegetables. This is what’s known as companion planting.
If aphids pose a problem you’ll definitely want syphrid flies around. Syphrid flies (also known as flower flies and hoverflies) feed on fall flowers through November. The mature flies then purposely lay eggs close to aphids. The fly larvae will soon use the aphids as food. They’ll also devour mealybugs, scale insects and thrips.
Gardeners will also appreciate that syphrid flies consume fungi when aphids aren’t in abundance. So no matter what, they can be very beneficial in a fall garden. Try to attract them with asters, black-eye Susans, goldenrods and other fall flowers.
In the insect world carnivorous species are rare. Members of the Carabidae family of beetles, better known as ground beetles, are part of that select group. In gardening circles they’re well known for their diet, which includes aphids, fly maggots, earthworms, grubs, insect larvae, slugs and snails.
The latter two are particularly important for fall gardeners. Slugs and snails lay more than half of their eggs in the fall. As they do they strip leaves bare and can destroy seedlings. Having ground beetles around will keep the slimy pests in check.
The green lacewing larvae population reaches its height in the summer and fall. That’s a very good thing for gardeners and farmers. The larvae feed on soft-bodied pests and their eggs. They’re ravenous eaters known to consume as many as 200 aphids a week. Lacewing larvae also help control their own population once they run out of garden pests to eat. When that occurs they’ll start eating other green lacewing larvae.
Unlike their young, mature green lacewings are strictly vegetarian. They feed on nectar. You can invite green lacewings to lay eggs by planting Angelica, sweet alyssum, cosmos and coreopsis.
The experts at Vulcan Termite and Pest Control, Inc. create custom treatment plans for handling garden pests during the fall. If you live in Central Alabama feel free to give us a call to schedule an on-site consultation.