By mary oldham
When it comes to pest management at the garden, it's sometimes a little tricky figuring out which ones to make friends with and which ones require "management", ahem. Let's take a closer look.
friend and foe?
A first glance at this party on a tomato plant evokes either fear or confusion. Yet seeing this means that all is well in the garden. The big green guy is a tomato hornworm, who will treat our tomato plants like an all-you-can-eat buffet. Yet we don't actually need to do much at all. Those white things on his back are the pupae of parasitic wasps. As they hatch, these larvae will eat the worm from the inside out. Gruesome? Having parasitic wasps to take care of hornworms is a sign of health and balance in a garden.
Don't let these pretty white butterflies fool you. As worms and then as butterflies, they certainly like to give us trouble in the spring and summer, munching through our cabbage, broccoli, and kale. We control them as best as possible by pulling the worms off plants or occasionally using an organic insecticidal spray.
In the winter when there is little to eat from neighbors' gardens, we will often find deer droppings in the garden. These folks gnaw and scrape at our small orchard trees and may eat our early crops. We've tried to ward them off by nailing soap bars to the fence posts and by fencing our trees and covering early crops with a protective fabric called remay.
We have one of these strange alien-like birdhouses at the garden to attract a true friend - the purple martin. Known for the massive quantity of insects they eat daily - grasshoppers, a mythical 20,000 mosquitoes, wasps, stink bugs, butterflies, beetles - this bird was first recruited by native American farmers in the southwest who would put out gourds to mimic natural nesting sites - tight cavities in cliffs or dead trees. The purple martin is now completely dependent on humans for housing. Attraction of these birds keeps down the need for pesticides and helps produce healthier plants, and, on farms with livestock, happier animals.
These are only a few of our fast friends and fastidious foe at the garden. Pursuing a natural balance to eliminate the need for pesticides or other control measures is tricky but a worthwhile endeavor.