a lady bug crawling on a flower bud

Aphids and Native Plants

This time of year you will probably notice Aphids clustered along stems and leaves in your garden.  Many gardeners ask themselves what to do about Aphids.  Our answer is simple:

If you want your garden to support the ecosystem, leave the Aphids alone.

Aphids do not damage Native plants, especially if the plants are not water stressed.  Aphids are a crucial part of the food web.  Beneficial insects such as ladybugs, hover-flies and green lacewings, specialize in eating aphids.  Many insects that eat Aphids help pollinate the dwindling native plant population, or are essential food sources for native birds.  In a garden full of diversity and native plants, the Aphid’s natural predators will manage the population without the gardener’s help.

We have come to expect “perfection” in our gardens– plants of florescent artificiality, neatly tucked into thick blankets of dyed mulch.  Gardeners run for pesticides at the first sign of insect.  Gardeners plant pest-resistant ornamental plants, without realizing that they are creating sterile spaces designed to reject wildlife.  In the book Bringing Nature Home, Doug Tallamy writes “Ironically, a sterile garden is one teetering on the brink of destruction.”

At Herring Run Nursery we believe that gardens serve a purpose beyond looking beautiful.

As Doug Tallamy says “A plant that has fed nothing has not done its job.”  Thousands of species rely on plants for food (including Aphids) and each insect plays a role in the complex web of our ecosystem.  By choosing plant species specifically for their value to insects, instead of insect-resistance, you are not only proving a habitat for wildlife, you are strengthening the natural system of pest control that gardeners look for in a bottle of pesticides.

Planting natives such as Milkweed, Coneflowers, Black-Eyed Susans, and Joe-Pye weed (all available at Herring Run Nursery), will attract natural predators to Aphids while helping restore ecological balance to your garden.

Only treat Aphids if you see severe stress on your plants, or suspect the Aphids are transmitting disease.  In that case use water sprays, or biopesticides such as soap or neem oil.

The renowned conservationist Sarah Stein wisely said “You can’t run a supermarket on just bread, and you can’t run an ecosystem on just lawn.”  It’s time to re-think the “perfect” garden.  What we need are diverse gardens full of life.  If you want your garden to benefit wildlife, leave the Aphids and plant more natives!

Herring Run Nursery is open Wednesday – Friday from 10am-3pm and on weekends from April through October, with a brief hiatus from July 1st-18th. We will continue to have weekday walk-in hours Wednesday – Friday up until Thanksgiving and then we will close for the winter.

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