by germinatrix | April 30th, 2009
We all want ladybugs in our gardens – don’t we? Not only are they our partners in Integrated Pest Management (using a multi-layered organic approach to get rid of the unwanted nasties), they are so CUTE!!!
Children love ladybugs, farmers love ladybugs, designers love ladybugs – I’ll wager a sweet, spotted ladybug would win over even the scroogiest meanie with their cheerful good looks and impeccable work ethic. If it wasn’t for these adorable new-wave insects, we gardeners would be overrun by aphids, mites, and mealybugs. Yuk…
The other day I was tidying up my vegetable beds, planting a few tomato starts, harvesting some lettuces and herbs – and I decided I had WAY too much marjoram. I planted two 4″ pots last year, and they thrive in here in LA. My herb bed was overflowing – so I took hold of the roots of one of them and pulled it out. As I was chopping it up to give it to the worms, I noticed it was FULL of ladybug nymphs!
NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!! I didn’t know marjoram was a such a great ladybug nursery! I always plant an excess of fennels – green and bronze – to give the nymphs a place to roost, but I have never seen as many as I saw on this now dead and gone marjoram. I immediately went over to the herb bed and shook the not-as-adorable-as-the-adult-version ladybug nymphs over the remaining marjoram. Whew… I almost committed mass murder! After examining the living marjoram, I saw a panoply of nymphs, empty skins, and ladies … they just love it in there!
I plant to attract beneficials. What magic plants, you ask, will attract the buggy armies of goodness we want in our gardens? You can find lists all over the web that will tell you what plants will attract what bug, but I consistently see the old rule borne out in my own garden -ladybugs LOVE umbellifers! Parsley, fennel, cilantro, yarrow, angelica, queen anne’s lace, etc. Even plants that have similarly clustered flowers attract the ladies and other beneficial insects – asclepias tuberosa (butterfly weed), allysum, tansy, and I see them on my tagetes lemonii (pot marigold) all the time.
Now, I am going to state what I consider to be the obvious – please please don’t use any chemicals of any kind in your garden! We can all create balanced ecosystems in our backyard/frontyard environments – we can make our own compost that amends and mulches our soil, we can encourage beneficial insects to control the insect pests, we can let our plants go to seed and create food for birds (and while they are there snacking on seeds, I guarantee they’ll eat an icky bug or two)… these aren’t difficult things to do! These rules aren’t only for vegetable gardeners or for use in your vegetable beds … ornamentals should be treated organically too!
Just look at this incredibly spunky ally we have in our gardens! The sweet little ladybug – give her a home, let her do her job, and not only will you have a better garden for it, you will have a big smile on your face whenever you see one. Really! I dare you not to smile…