It's been nearly a year since I first started writing about good bugs in the garden. That four-part series of posts became the basis for my hour-long talk for Rooting DC. While I've proposed a different topic for this year ("Resilient Vegetable Gardening in the Time of Climate Change," and I've just received official notice that my proposal has been accepted, so save the date: February 23, 2019), I will revisit some of the good bug material as I feel strongly that those two topics are inter-related. My general gardening philosophy is holistic after all: gardens are complex ecosystems and plants and bugs are community partners through co-evolution. As our climate continues to change, the behaviors of plants and bugs are bound to change too, as will their relationships with one another. Y'know, all of these living things will do whatever they are able in attempt to survive. Now I know that last bit sounded kinda dark, but I am actually hopeful. I believe that dedicated and compassionate gardeners can help. Working together in stewardship, neighboring gardens make up a quilt of protected habitat.
I've put some thought into what revisions I would make to my previous Gardening with Good Bugs talk, as I've continued to build my knowledge on the topic. I would want to discuss the recent reports that non-pest insect populations are declining, which puts our gardens at an increased risk for pest infestations without enough good bugs to help us. Adding to the topic of plant and bug co-evolution, in which I previously discussed how plants and bugs communicate through smell, I would also want to talk about how plants use extrafloral nectaries to attract predators of pests. Of course, I would include more photos from my past year of gardening, including bug sightings and my efforts to do more for butterflies, all while growing a lush and productive vegetable garden. Finally, along with discussing the importance of native plants, I'd want to make sure that I was also talking about native bugs.
The same research- and experience-based best practices of organic gardening are both protective to bug habitats and they increase the resilience of our gardens in the time of climate change. While the video above calls it a "mistake" to not follow these practices, I prefer to express the positive perspective. I want you to feel empowered to make your garden more productive, beautiful, and eco-friendly. Creating healthy soil through using compost and mulch not only nourishes the entire garden ecosystem, it increases the soil's capacity to effectively manage water, making the garden more resilient both in times of flood or drought. Avoiding toxic chemicals like pesticides maintains the greatest possible biodiversity, allowing each member of the garden community to fulfill its role. The damaging activity of pests is minimized through the natural ecosystem pressures of competition and predation. And when we stand back and allow Nature to take out the trash for us, we don't have to work so hard ourselves, which I've gotta say is my favorite part.
The good bugs are out there...if you build it, they will come.