Deer in the Panhandle. We love to watch them and see them come in our yards. We don't however love it when they eat our plants. How do you keep deer from destroying your garden? Well it is important to plant things that are deer resistant. I myself have planted deer resistant things and I have still had issues with curious deer coming into my yard to nibble at the various plants my beds have to offer. I found that even those plants marked as deer resistant were still being tasted. Now the key word here is "tasted". The deer would bite the plant, taste it, and spit it out.
Insects that are beneficial to your garden include lacewings which eat aphids and other small bugs and eggs. Lady bugs are also good beneficials for your garden. Hoverflies resemble bees and hover around flowers they feed on aphids, mealybugs, etc. Parasitic mini-wasps will lay their eggs inside caterpillars and when the eggs hatch they eat the caterpillars. These wasps help control moth, beetle, and fly populations. Tachinid flies help control cabbage worms, carnage loopers, cutworms, army worms, stink bugs, squash bugs and beetle and fly larvae.
We all are aware of the honey bee and the bumble bee. They are probably the two most well known types of bees. Honey bees are not native to the US. They originated in Africa and have since made their way across the world as people take them to new places. Honey bees are great pollinators but we often forget about the native bees that were living here before the honey bees arrived. We have a vast amount of native bees in the US and Canada. We have more than 4000 species! Not all of these species occur in the Panhandle but we do have a nice diversity of bees.
If I say that having insects in your garden is a good thing, many of you might think I’m crazy. However there is a lot of research backing up this claim. When you have an insect problem in your garden it is the result of an unbalanced ecosystem. The insect population in each place is made up of multiple levels. You have insect herbivores that will eat plants, the insect predators, and the vertebrates like birds and mammals that eat the insects. It sounds counter intuitive to say that one should take insect herbivores into consideration when choosing your plants.
At Canyon's Edge Plants we try to control the pest problem without using harmful chemicals. We have even resorted to toad wrangling to try to control the grasshopper problem a bit. We have also learned that Great Plains Skinks eat grasshoppers! So try to be friendly to the toads and lizards in your garden and around your house they are beneficial. Some don't know that deet in most bug repellants is toxic to reptiles and amphibians. So make sure not to spray that stuff in places where these animals might get into it.
One of the latest troubling news items this last summer has been the decline of the honeybee. There are evidently several factors causing this. Too many chemicals, pollution, etc.
Growing plants in the Panhandle can be tough, particularly when you are growing in an exposed situation with a goal of conserving water. Many plants will do fine when given ample water and protection from the wind. However, it takes a tougher plant to make it trying to rely on an amount of water closer to our natural rainfall. There are plenty of plants that will grow in this situation. We just have to look a little harder to find them and need to look for new varieties that may fit in our climate.