Keeping Pests at Bay Through Diversity Print
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Written by Ann Shepphird   

Called the "eco-oracle" by Wine Spectator magazine, "Amigo Bob" Cantisano (below) was a legend in the organic gardening field. Sadly, he passed away at the end of 2020 but I had the opportunity to learn so much from him during the organic gardening workshops I took up at Esalen and wanted to share some of his wisdom.

Amigo Bob Cantisano

One of the most important things Amigo imparted was the critical role diversity plays in our gardens. He started by imparting this interesting fact: There are 70,000 different species of insects in the world and less than 100 are pests in the garden. The rest are our allies. That's pretty cool, huh? We have 69,900 allies! Yea!

So the question becomes: how do we get these allies into our gardens? The answer is through diversity. The greater the diversity, the more stability a garden has. So if you're growing mostly vegetables, you will want to add flowers and herbs and allium (onions, garlic, etc.) as they attract the beneficial insects (those allies we talked about) like ladybugs, which are predators and eat the pests, and wasps, which are parasites and love to lay their eggs within the little buggers.

The reason the pretty flowers attract the ladybug-style predators (and who doesn't love a ladybug? come on!) is that they are omnivores. They eat insects but they also feed on nectar and pollen. They need both so will be attracted to gardens with the diversity they crave.