Insects in the garden

I was asked a good question the other day about insects. Do I spray?

Actually, no, I don’t spray because I have an organic garden and I don’t want to kill beneficial insects when spraying the destructive ones. That said, I have used a vinegar spray, Dr. Bronner’s peppermint soap diluted and other home remedies to manage destructive insects in the garden with modest results.

The truth is I usually don’t bother. I’ve lost an entire green bean crop to Japanese beetles in three days. I battle earwigs in my lettuces and chard with the ferocity of a native Californian (because I am). Green cabbage worms in the lettuce are annoying. Fortunately, I’ve not been hit with squash beetles and have kept my eggplants free of black fleas. (And then there are the rabbits. . . . )

Such is life. Every year, there is something that does spectacularly well and something that proves a poor crop. Sometimes it’s an early fall and sometimes it’s an invasion of destructive insects.

There are, however, plenty of beneficial insects in the garden. Copious earthworms and spiders (not actually insects, I know) tell me it’s a healthy garden with good, strong soil. Bees, bumblebees and butterflies are welcomed guests because they fertilize squash, cucumbers and many other fruits in the garden. When I gardened at the 61st Street Community Garden, of blessed memory, I always had a praying mantis living and hunting in my plot. Today I saw the largest, most gorgeous dragonfly ever.

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