In the Garden:
Northern & Central Midwest
September, 2001
Regional Report

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Spiders are not my favorite insect, but they do more good than harm in the garden.

Living with Pests

I'm learning how to let things be in the garden and how to share my garden with critters that some consider pests. With a little planning, I can enjoy watching nature while still harvesting herbs, vegetables, and flowers from my garden.

Saving Swallowtails

For example, while harvesting herbs for dinner one night, I noticed that one side of a parsley plant had no leaves, only naked stalks. At the base of the plant rested a beautiful, striped caterpillar with a full tummy. I brought my daughters to see it, and had a great chat about what it eats and how it will turn into a gorgeous swallowtail butterfly. I have plenty of parsley, so I don't mind offering some to this little creature in order to enjoy the butterfly later on.

Cabbage Butterflies

Much to the delight of my daughters, one true butterfly pest I've learned to live with is the cabbage butterfly. I usually plant cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, Chinese cabbage, and mustard in the garden so there's plenty to attract them. To minimize damage without spraying is really simple. I place floating row covers over the plants to prevent the butterflies from laying eggs on the leaves. This year I even decided to leave some broccoli plants as a trap crop after the main harvest. The butterflies laid their eggs on the broccoli leaves and the hatching worms munched happily away, leaving most everything else alone. My daughters and I got to spend the summer watching the creamy white butterflies swoop and dip, sipping nectar from salvia, thyme and veronica flowers.

Living With Chippies

We also have a chipmunk as a regular visitor to the garden. Much to the dismay of the cats, he stays fairly well hidden. But there's evidence of his visits from the sunflowers that keep coming up in every pot and flower bed. He packs his little cheeks full of seeds from under the bird feeders and then buries them. Of course, the seeds he misses this winter will sprout next year as volunteers to insure a continued harvest for these little guys.


Even though I don't particularly like spiders, I wouldn't give up the hundreds in my garden since I know they eat aphids, leafhoppers, mites, and other small insects. They're fascinating to watch so I leave them alone and they leave me alone. Meanwhile, I haven't seen an aphid yet.

Food For All

One key to keeping pests from destroying succulent vegetables is to make sure there's plenty of other food available for them. We leave clover in the lawn so rabbits don't bother the lettuce. We've planted the landscape with fruit-bearing plants, so birds leave the garden alone except to help with insect eradication.

Now, as soon as I can learn to appreciate mosquitoes, then I'll really with living with nature.

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