Today’s garden pests are beefed up, hungry to consume, and resistant to most traditional methods of control in your garden and on house plants. There seems to be continuous production of state-of-the-art chemicals that only serve as the next temporary band aid on pest management. If you observe our native landscapes you don’t usually see large populations of pests, or even any single species populations. Pests are diverse, spread out, and quick to move, as there are the same number of natural predators lurking between the leaves and consuming these pests as fast as they can produce.
At the nursery, we embrace a garden’s natural cycles and incorporate beneficial insects to help control our pests as we encounter them during the growing season in our greenhouses. We aren’t able to completely eradicate all pests but we can manage their populations and remove them from our plants more effectively. Eliminating pesticide use in our greenhouse is the most important aspect of our entire program. Now our greenhouse gravel floors and surrounding gardens are nurturing generations of natural predators to help not only our greenhouse annuals, but all the plants we grow at the nursery.
The mites, wasps, and army of bugs in this bug eat bug world
The most destructive pest we encounter is not usually one people think of, or even can see. Its tiny golden weevil body is about the size of a few grains of salt. It quickly finds fresh pollen, lush green growth, and flower petals and sucks life from a plant. The Western Flower Thrip has become increasingly resistant to pesticides, and quickly develops a home in greenhouse production. They have been known to bite growers depending on populations!
With a simple application of multiple species, predatory mites can completely control a thrip population. These mites will breed in the soil, disperse themselves throughout the application area, and seek and destroy the thrips. Predatory mites are now considered by the greenhouse industry to be the most effective way to control thrips.
Green Peach Aphids consistently meet and greet every season in our greenhouse. We use two different predators for control. Parasitic wasps are a longer, slower control but have proven to be very effective against aphid populations. These wasps lay their eggs into the aphid, and as the larvae develop they consume and hatch out of the aphid’s body (gross). Here are some from our greenhouse.
These beneficial bugs are part of the #horsfordteam! Thanks @ullrrise , our Greenhouse Manager, for catching them on camera! ・・・ Instead of covering our greenhouse plants in chemicals we enlist the biological forces to control our problems. Don’t be fooled by box store annuals, we got the real deal @horsfordnursery. More bees, more bugs, more life. #saynotopesticides #greenhouses #parasiticwasps #aphiddestroyer
To help keep our wasp populations thriving we also grow Bird Cherry Oat aphids that specifically only eat oat grass. These aphids don’t bother our plants in the greenhouse, and serve as a banquet for our wasps. Look for these “banker plants” in baskets hanging at the end of each greenhouse. These keep the wasps roaming for the aphids that do harm to our plants. Once a population of Green Peach Aphids appears, the wasps are attracted to them and help manage the pest.
Our second predator is the mighty lady beetle, who although have a long development phase from egg to beetle, have proven to be useful and effective in controlling aphid population outbreaks.
Next time you’re at the nursery be sure to stop in our greenhouses and take a closer look at our plants. You’ll be amazed at the ecosystems within the beautiful flowers, aromatic cooking herbs, and lush vegetable starts.