Sunday, July 20, 2008

Allowing Small Creatures to Help With Garden Chores

With organic gardening becoming the norm in more and more gardens, it only seems natural to let the tiny creatures of the garden assist you with some of your gardening chores. Ever wonder what Earthworms do to your soil? Or whether you should try and get rid of those moles tunneling through the garden? What about the birds pecking the ground or roosting in trees? Should I try to get rid of what some gardeners call nuisances in the garden, or should I use my instincts and try to work with these creatures?

In the spirit of being a true naturalist, I have decided to enlist the help of small and tiny creatures in my garden to help me make the most out of my resources. The animal most gardeners dread seeing the most is probably Mr. Snake. Snakes rank right up there with root canals and filing income tax for most people. More snakes meet their fatal end with the edge of a shovel or hoe stabbing into their middles.

But, if you would just stop a minute before hacking your slithering enemy to death, you may learn to enjoy the benefits of snakes in the garden. Number one, if you run upon a snake in the garden, he is going to be more afraid of you than you can ever be of him. The snake’s first instinct is to get away at the first sign of danger. If you will just step back, the snake will skim across the grass faster than you can scream, “Help!” That snake will be so startled, he won’t come out for the rest of the day, and he will probably find another hiding spot, one well away from the crazy humans.

Snakes will keep your yard free from excessive mice, voles, and occasional rats that are a natural part of a neighborhood back yard. Now, I don’t know about you, but I’m willing to put up with see the occasional snake in the garden in exchange for no mice or rats in my home.

Walk through the gardening section of discount and home improvement centers and you will see many traps and contraptions to eliminate moles from your yard. Moles are the tiny bulldozers that leave raised mounds all through some lawns and gardens. Some people will try anything to stop these tunneling creatures from making tracks through their lawns, but is that really necessary? Moles are not vegetarians, so contrary to popular belief, they don’t eat the roots of your plants and trees. Instead, moles continually feast on grubs they uncover in the soil.

So whenever moles are leading a wagon train through my gardens, I just gently lift the mounding soil into pots and use them to make container gardens. This soil is nice and fluffy which leads to nice drainage and aeration, perfect conditions for container grown plants. Or, I will sprinkle the super fine soil across the lawn to provide supplementation throughout grassy areas. It is also easy to use a steel tined rake and rake the mounds into the surrounding areas. I look at moles like an extra hand with tilling the soil. They keep the topsoil aerated and tilled; in return, they also eat all the grubs hibernating in the soil. I don’t know about you, but the quicker the moles can rid me of Japanese beetles grubs, the happier I will be.

Spiders are another ick factor for some gardeners, but without their continual patrolling of gardens and lawns, all our plants would be overrun with aphids and other soft bodied insects. Spiders use their webs to capture large flies, cabbage moths and other flying creatures. As a matter of fact, some large farm install “spider boxes” throughout their fields to have with insect problems. These spider boxes are typically wooden crates turned upside down; the spiders spend the hot days under the cover of the box and build their webs in the vegetation.

So next time you are tempted to hack at a poor little snake, set out mole traps or brush away those spider webs, think first of all the benefits these creatures can have to a natural landscape. You will be surprised at what these creatures can do.

1 comment:

Cindy said...

I have yet to have seen any snakes in our yard but I would not be surprised if they were hiding out there some where considering the terrain of where we live. I would actually be very happy to stumble upon one as I know they are super garden keepers.

We do however have garden spiders EVERYWHERE! And they are very welcome here too!