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Your feel-good garden for beneficial insects

written by Samen Maier on 15. July 2020
in Gardentips, Bees and beneficials
DI Doris Kampas

Beneficial insects are the most important helpers in the organic garden. They pollinate fruit trees and vegetables, loosen the soil, prepare compost and are important opponents of pests. The beneficial insects themselves are as diverse as their benefits. And you can do a lot to make sure that many different beneficial insects feel at home in your garden.

Allow some chaos in your garden

Tidy, sparse gardens are perhaps beautiful to the eye of the owner, but hardly inviting for useful insects etc. So have the courage to create chaos and leave a thistle or some nettles, leaves under the hedge or some pieces of fallen fruit on the ground. The wild plants attract bees, bumblebees, butterflies and other insects into your garden. They offer them not only food but also shelter. In and under the foliage layer, beetles and spiders are cavorting around, working as health police in your garden. Earthworms pull the fallen leaves into the ground and produce valuable humus from them. In autumn and winter, the leaves not only protect the soil from excessive frost, but also provide food for birds. The fallen fruit is also a welcome winter food for our feathered friends, who – attracted to the garden – kill many wintering pests on the side.

Stinging nettles and thistles are also allowed to stay – they attract many beneficial insects

Create a beneficials island

If you have taken over a “sterile” garden or all the gardens around you are cleanly “tidy”, it can sometimes take a long time for wild flowers to settle in your garden by themselves. Therefore, create an island of beneficials. Choose a specific place for it, e.g. next to the compost, as an island in the lawn or in a specially created bed next to the vegetables. Prepare an area of 1-2 m² for sowing by removing grass or other vegetation, loosening the soil with a digging fork and raking it smooth. Sow a special seed mixture for beneficial organisms in this area. The ideal is a combination of annual and perennial flowering plants that are self-sown again and again. Lacewings, ladybugs, hoverflies, bees, bumblebees and many other insects will be lured into your garden and soon be at home.

Mauves, cornflowers, poppies and much more grows on the beneficial insect island

Plant food plants for bees and bumblebees

If the bee dies, the human being dies. As trivial as this statement is, and as often as you have heard it, it is just as true. Bees, together with bumble bees, pollinate 70% of our crops.

Best bee food: Borage!

Not only the well-known honey bee, but also the individually living wild bees and mason bees are important pollinators of fruit trees and vegetables. In addition to the application of chemical pesticides in agriculture and still far too many gardens, bees and bumblebees often suffer from food shortages. After the fruit trees blossom in early spring, the supply of flowering plants – and thus of bee food – decreases rapidly. Flowering field margins fall victim to the landscape conservation, just like the dandelion in the green lawn. And exactly during that season, in which the bees need much food for their breeding. With the targeted cultivation of forage plants you supply bees and bumblebees – and make your garden bloom and shine.

The following perennials, flowers and herbs are especially popular with bees and bumblebees:

Aquilegia VulgarisCarthusian PinkChives
ElecampaneCornflowerScabious
ComfreyLavenderSunflower
PhaceliaDandelionSweet Clover
BorageMallows
SavoryMargueriteThyme
SaffflowersPoppyWhite Deadnettle
Yellow MignonetteViper’s BuglossBrownray Knapweed
BellflowersCrimson
Deadnettle
Meadow-Sage
ChamomileTansyWild Flower-Cowslip
Golden MargueriteRed CloverField Scabious
Witch’s MoneybagsSageHedgenettle
Fire-LilyYarrow
CarthusiansGarlic Chives

CREATE HABITATS FOR BENEFICIAL INSECTS

Beneficial insects prefer to work and eat where they live and raise their brood.

The Insect Hotel

With an insect hotel you provide a living and breeding quarter for many different beneficial insects in one place. An insect hotel is a wooden box that is divided into different sections. Each “room” is furnished differently, e.g. with straw, wood wool, tree trunk sections, clay, red bricks, hollow stalks and remains of perennials or bamboo canes. Insect hotels are now available ready to buy, but you can also build them yourself and fill them with different materials. The more varied the filling is, the more different beneficial insects will move into the hotel.

Insektenhaus wartet auf Gäste
Luxury hotel waiting for guests

Wall and wild bees brood in hollow stalks and tree-trunk-holes. The adult lacewings protect themselves from wind and weather in the hollows of red bricks. Their larvae eat hundreds of aphids – that is why they are also called aphid lions. Earwigs, hoverflies, ichneumon flies, ichneumon flies, chalcid wasps and ladybugs nest in straw or wood wool. All these beneficial insects go hunting for aphids and mealybugs, spider mites, caterpillars of spider moths, whiteflies, thrips and other pests.

a ladybug in search of aphids

Leave remains of blossoming perennials, flowers and stems in autumn.

They protect your plants from frost and are also a welcome shelter for beneficial insects. In cavities and between flower remains they are well protected from frost and cold.

flowered perennials are a shelter for many useful insects – therefore leave them standing

Create wood and stone piles

A woodpile of dead branches, twigs and tree bark, occasionally offset with a few stones, is a true refuge for wild animals. Here, beetles romp around, drilling holes in the wood and thus creating a habitat for wild bees, lizards and slowworms – both skilled snail hunters – bask in the sun on the stones and with a little luck even a hedgehog moves in.

Wood and stone heaps are refuges for insects, reptiles and small mammals

Also a thick mulch-layer from foliage, grass or Miscanthus under hedges, in the shrub bed or in the vegetable garden offers useful animals shelter and food. Hedgehogs prefer to live in shady hedges under a layer of leaves. Earthworms, on the other hand, use the mulch material as food under which they loosen the soil and enrich it with valuable humus.


About the author: DI Doris Kampas

I got my first vegetable patch in elementary school and was incredibly proud of the first peas I harvested myself. Over the years, the small bed grew into a larger one and finally a whole vegetable garden. Nobody in our family ever thought of treating the vegetables or other plants with any kind of chemical agents. We had enough compost, which we spread on the beds every year, pests were simply removed.

The hobby “growing vegetables” became a passion and finally my profession.

After my studies of plant cultivation at the BOKU in Vienna and some years of professional experience I founded my company in 2007
‘bio-garten’

The focus is on self-produced raised beds made of sustainable larch wood, organic garden products and the planning and consulting of and for organic kitchen gardens. I like to pass on my knowledge in lectures, workshops and in my books.

Growing food ” organically ” is the most normal thing in the world for me, not to do it is absurd.

 DI Doris Kampas

Article and photo credits: DI Doris Kampas

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