In the movie Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey, the protagonists, Bill and Ted, have to confront their evil robot doubles. They decide that the only way to confront the “evil robot usses” is to build some “good robot usses”
A similar analogy apples to your garden. From the point of view of the gardener, there are “evil” creatures — cutworms, Mexican bean beetles, corn borers, rabbits, squirrels, etc. that are out to do great harm to your garden. Oh sure, you can use pesticides, traps that kill, etc., but that’s not playing very harmoniously with nature. No, the best and most natural way to combat the “evil” creatures is with sanitation, repellents, and “good” creatures. By good creatures, I’m referring to the animals and insects that prey upon the creatures that prey upon your vegetable crops. Encourage them to come into your garden — provide them with suitable habitat, and they’ll repay you by devouring those crop destroyers.
Just who are these good guys? Allow me to introduce you to a few.
Lady bird beetles — Lady bird beetles are voracious predators of aphids. Each larvae can eat as many as 400 aphids, while each adult can eat as many as 50.
Lacewings — Lacewings are probably the most effective insect predator you can invite into your garden. Their larvae, which looks like a tiny alligator, preys on aphids, caterpillars, mealybugs, leafhoppers, insect eggs, and whiteflies.
Parasitic wasps — Trichogramma, braconid, chalcid, and ichneumid wasps lay their eggs on aphids, corn earworm, tomato fruitworm, cabbageworm, and tent caterpillars. The larvae then feed on these pests, eventually either killing it or completely disrupting its activities.
Hover flies — Hover flies look like bees, but they zip through the air in a manner similar to flies. Hover flies will lay their eggs near aphids or other soft-bodied insects. The larvae will then feed on the aphids. A single hover fly larvae can eat as many as 60 aphids per day.
Pirate bugs and big-eyed bugs — These two “true” bugs feed on eats aphids, thrips, mites, whiteflies, and insect eggs.
In addition to insect predators, there are also animals that you can invite to your garden. Toads and frogs will eat insect pests in the daytime; bats will get them by night. Snakes will eat insects, rats, mice, moles, and gophers, as will hawks, foxes, and coyotes. All of these creatures, yes even the bats and snakes, should be encouraged to set up residence in your garden. And nothing rolls out the red carpet for these good guys better than creating the right kind of habitat around your garden. This means providing them with food, water, and shelter. Grow plants such as tansy, fennel, zinnia, and statice, which are good sources of nectar for adult insect predators. Provide shelter in the form of leafy plants for the beetles and ceramic “toad abodes” for frogs and toads. Provide a source of water for these predators to drink by watering overhead and leaving puddles on the leaves or by providing a saucer filled with water.
Most importantly, don’t use insecticides!
It’s true that nature is filled with creatures that will make a meal out of your garden. But nature also provides creatures to devour the garden-eaters. So invite these “good guys” into your garden and let nature work for you.