A Healthy garden Feeds Insects

Traditional horticulture has long been a way of controlling nature for the aesthetic preferences of humans with environmental health playing little to no role in the thought process. A great example of this is how we have been taught that insects eating the plants in our gardens is always a bad thing.

Insects are a vital part of our ecosystems. Simply put, they are important for turning plants into insect protein. Insects then pass this energy up the food chain by becoming someones lunch! Unfortunately, most gardens are filled with exotic plants that insects simply cannot eat. This is because they have not evolved the adaptations to be able to utilize exotic plants as food. This has huge effects on our ecosystems, especially when we consider that 90% of birds require insect protein to feed their young, with their top choice being caterpillars.

When we exterminate, or exclude, native insects from our landscapes (keep killing invasive insects, of course), or don’t include plants that they can eat(most exotic plants), we are essentially preventing birds from completing their life-cycles.

With this in mind, we can consider that bird feeders are not really the best way to feed birds in our gardens. The best thing we can do for birds, and other wildlife, is to plant native plants that feed the insects they eat.

Birds are just one of many examples. So many animals rely on insects for food, either directly or indirectly, that without healthy insect populations our ecosystems would loose their ability to support life as we know it.

As ecological gardeners we need to learn to accept some leaf “damage” in our gardens if we want them to be hospitable for wildlife. I put the word damage in italics because once you change your mindset you realize that it isn’t damage but a sign - a sign of a garden that is contributing to a healthy ecosystem and well-fed wildlife.

If you would like perfect, untouched leaves in your garden then I suggest you go buy some plastic plants...Just kidding, please don't do that, choose native plants instead ;)

Shaun Booth