One of my perverse pleasures is perusing Pintrest to find bad garden advice. There’s certainly no lack of misinformation on the web, and Pintrest seems to collect it all. Most advice is simply a waste of time and money—sprinkling Epsom salts on your plants, spraying weeds with vinegar, pouring beer on your lawn. They don’t help, but they won’t kill your plants either. However, yesterday I came across a recommendation that will seriously damage your garden. I was so horrified that I immediately sat down to write this post.
During a recent visit to a local business, a tiny little beetle was discovered making its way along the baseboard, laboriously climbing over each bump in the carpet. Alarmed, the owner rushed over and glowered at the intruder, commenting that it was the second one she’d seen in as many days. She promised to pick up an insecticidal “bomb” to set off that evening after closing. I rescued the pint-sized ground beetle and carried it outdoors before it got stepped on. I’m sure it was relieved to be deposited in the grass, where it could go back to preying on smaller insects.
With winter approaching, many insects are looking for a place to shelter until spring. They don’t know the difference between a bark crevice and a door frame, and they unwittingly end up in our houses. Most are completely harmless, and can be simply redirected back outside. Instead, we reach for the can of bug spray.
The best way to ward off insect and disease problems is to grow a healthy plant. Just as a wolf pack will target the weakest member of a herd, insects seem to zero in on a plant that is under stress. Good gardening practices—choosing the right plant for the spot, soil preparation, proper planting, feeding, watering, mulching, and the like, all go a long way to keep our gardens free of damaging pests.
But cultural control goes further than just having a green thumb. Sometimes our yards are invaded by insects no matter how good a gardener we are. In that case, it pays to know the enemy.