Attract, Don't Attack, Helpful Garden Critters

August can be a busy time in the garden - not only for you, but also a number of unwelcome garden critters. However, don't be too quick to scare away every creature. Remember that not all pests will pester your garden. In fact, certain garden animals and insects can be beneficial to your plants.

Instead of working to deter every garden animal from your outdoor space, invite some of these critters in to help:

  1. Bats: Bats provide a number of benefits to the garden, including pollinating food crops and feasting on mosquitoes. They also can help take care of moths and beetles, which both tend to bother vegetable gardens. Mount a few bat houses to your trees to attract bats each night.
  2. Ladybugs: These little insects provide more than just a colorful accent in the garden. Eating up to 60 aphids a day, they can be a gardener's best friend. Plant umbrella-shaped flowers, like dill and yarrow, to keep the ladybugs around.
  3. Frogs and Toads: While not the most attractive garden animals, they feed on slugs, flying insects and plant-destroying cutworms. If you'd rather not install a pond, you can build a shelter by partially burying a terra cotta pot on its side in a cool, shady spot where bugs gather.
  4. Bees: As your kids can probably tell you, bees are important pollinators, increasing productivity in your fruit, vegetable and flower gardens. Consider leaving the dandelions in your lawn just long enough to attract the bees. Although some lawn enthusiasts consider them an eyesore, the weeds actually provide bees with a good source of pollen and nectar.
  5. Spiders: They might scare you, but spiders will do a lot more harm to beetles, mosquitoes and flies than they will to you, so have no fear. Include plenty of plants from the sunflower, daisy and parsley families in your garden to keep these eight-legged creatures nearby.
  6. Birds: Birds can be very helpful in the garden and are easy to attract. Hummingbirds prey on gnats, flies and aphids, picking them right off the leaves. Lovers of nectar, they make great pollinators as well. Wrens eat many times their weight in insects each day, with plenty of young to keep fed. Invite these and other birds to your garden with berried shrubs, birdbaths, birdhouses and feeders.