When there’s humming and buzzing in the garden, that’s a good sign. It means that all is right with the world. It means you have made an important contribution to the ecological balance. Bees, butterflies and all the other small and useful creatures will find food, shelter and feel at home. For this to happen, you will have to make your garden more insect-friendly. Not every plant is suitable for this. How to do insect-friendly gardening, and what you have to look out for, is easily explained.
HOW TO CREATE AN ECO-FRIENDLY, BENEFICIAL INSECT-FRIENDLY GARDEN
Do you only have a small garden or a tiny balcony? No problem! The size of your garden does not matter at all if you want to give useful insects a home. Here’s how to do it: The first thing you need to do is some inventory. Write down what kind of plants are already growing in your garden or on your balcony. For that, you should take note of the local conditions the plants need so that you can later place them at their ideal spot. After that is done, the real planning begins: now you have to think about which areas of the garden have to be redesigned and how they should fit your needs. Those who like something that is easy to care for may choose a wild flower meadow. Those who would like to keep harvesting fresh vegetables, will surely keep their veggie garden. Others place great value on perennial beds. Once you have considered these issues, you can begin selecting plants: insect-friendly plants stay in your garden, whilst other, not so friendly plants are replaced. Keep in mind the different flowering periods – in order for butterflies, bees, and co. to feel at home with you, your garden should be planted in such a way that it provides food from early spring to late autumn. By the way, your garden will be more hospitable to insects if you allow space for watering holes, piles of leaves, dead wood, and dry-stone walls.
FOOD FOR POLLINATORS AND BENEFICIAL INSECTS
Not every plant is suitable for an insect-friendly garden or balcony. Blossoming hydrangeas, dahlias, and geraniums may look great, but they don’t offer our little friends very much – neither food nor protection. That is different for dandelions and stinging nettles. Until now, you have banned both from your well-kept garden, and now it is time to let them grow. This is because dandelions provide bees with valuable pollen and the nettle is important food for caterpillars, who will later turn into the most beautiful butterflies. If you have ivy growing up your house walls, that would be great as well. Ivy is one of the few real autumn flowers and prolongs the food cycle for bees and butterflies. Around that time, its green-yellow, spherical umbels provide nectar that beneficial insects find easy to access. In addition, many beneficial insects find a safe home in its dense tangles of shoots and evergreen leaves. The same goes for bee-friendly herbs that are suitable for every garden and make both beneficial insects and humans alike happy: lavender, thyme or oregano can easily be grown on any balcony.
CREATE INSECT-FRIENDLY VARIETY
A clipped lawn may look neat, but it does not offer insects enough food to survive. However, even a rich flowering meadow has its pitfalls: although there is an abundance of food in the summer for bees, butterflies, bumblebees, and the like, in the spring and autumn our little friends will search for food with no luck. This is why it is vital to offer food all year round. It starts in spring with the spring crocus and the grape hyacinth. These ensure a good start to the year. Thereafter, apple blossoms keep bees happy. In late summer, autumn anemones, bushy aster, mint, shrub basil and stone crop, provide a last feast before the winter. As you can see, it is not hard to keep the little helpers fed throughout the year.
HOW TO HELP POLLINATORS AND BENEFICIAL INSECTS THRIVE IN YOUR GARDEN
It always starts in autumn: many gardens are cleaned up for the winter. Hedges are trimmed, flower beds are cleared out. But what is nice for humans is a nightmare for beneficial insects: most of them cannot find possibilities for retreat in such a garden in colder seasons. It does help, however, to keep “wild corners” untouched. In such areas, piles of leaves, dead wood and dead shrub offers useful insects a refuge and safety from frost and snow. A pile of stones in a sunny place is a paradise for warmth-loving insects. A mini pond does not just provide cooling in the summer – it is also a home for many species of insects like the beautiful dragonfly. You are already making a great contribution if you set up an insect hotel in your small garden. If you set it up in a weatherproof location with access to full sun, pretty soon plenty of new inhabitants will move in.
USE ORGANIC INSTEAD OF CHEMICAL – PROPER FERTILIZATION AND SPRAYING
Compost is gardeners’ gold, as we say. There’s truth to that saying! After all, no other fertilizer is as sustainable, nutrient-rich and environmentally friendly. Moreover, it is easy to make: when composting, you recycle kitchen scraps like salads, eggshells, coffee grounds, onion and potato peels, and mix it with garden waste like hedge trimmings and lawn cuttings. After only a short amount of time, you will be able to treat your plants with the best fertilizer nature has to offer. Simply spread it around the plants, rake, and water – done! And if you want to do something to combat the aphids that nibble on your perennials, you should also try doing so with natural means and refrain from using the chemical bludgeon. This is because many beneficial organisms like butterflies and bees don’t tolerate chemical agents very well and become unintended victims. Try old home remedies like stinging nettle manure instead. Just doing this will help you drive out many pests.
AVOID SETTING UP DEATH TRAPS FOR INSECTS
We all know the feeling: it’s a warm summer night, and all we really want to do is cosy up on the terrace and enjoy the star-studded sky, but instead we get annoyed and tormented by mosquitoes. To avoid this, many garden owners set up UV-light traps, which also kill useful insects. Doing so isn’t necessary! Instead, just put some small pots of lavender, lemon balm and oregano out on your terrace. You will see that the mosquito plague will soon come to an end and that no bee will be harmed in the process. What only a few people know: even light pollution is harmful to many beneficial species. Since insects are drawn to light, they will circle garden lights until complete exhaustion and also crawl into the lamps – a death sentence for them. So please refrain from constantly lighting up your garden at night. You could instead use an automatic timer and save electricity while you help useful insects.