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In the Garden: Helpful helpers

Guest column by John DeGarmo

John DeGarmo

John DeGarmo

Living in the country, as I do, there are those wild animals that I do want in my garden, and those that I do not want. In order to be successful as a gardener, it is important to know which ones are good, and which ones are harmful.

Just the other day, I received a phone call from a fellow gardener, asking about insects in her garden. She wondered what it might be, and whether or not it was damaging her garden. After a few questions from me, we were able to determine that the insect in question in her garden was the praying mantis, a fantastically strange looking and wonderful helper.

Mantises, like the lady bug, are fantastic helpers in your garden, as they are an organic method of defending your garden from harmful insects. They will devour aphids, leafhoppers, mosquitoes, caterpillars and other soft-bodied insects when young. Later, they will eat larger insects, beetles, grasshoppers, crickets, and other pest insects. The mantis is the only predator that will hunt at night, often eating moths, and is the only insect that is fast enough to catch flies and the dreaded mosquito. You can easily attract the praying mantis to your garden by growing cosmos, zinnas, and other colorful annuals, or you can also purchase them through the mail, as well.

One animal I do not wish to attract is one that seems to come and visit often, anyways. As I was sifting one of my compost piles the other day, I was startled to see a copperhead snake. Now, I am by no means afraid of snakes, and recognize greatly the benefit they do for my garden. After all, they are wonderful for taking care of rodents and other pests. Yet, with five children in my house, at the present, I do not wish to visit the hospital any time soon for copperhead bites. This was one animal that I wished would no longer visit, and I encouraged this fella to move along, and never return.

Animals of all kinds, shapes and sizes can be found in a garden. From birds to lizards, from beetles to raccoons, Georgia gardens can be home to a variety of wildlife.

It is important to know which kinds are harmful and which are harmless; which ones will improve your garden, and which ones will help to destroy it. With a little research and a little knowledge, you can encourage animals to help you in all your gardening needs. Enjoy.