Published December 11, 2009
Tags: habitat, seasonal advice, Seeds, winter
Here at the Bug Farm, the rainy season is in full effect. In places with a mild Mediterranean climate like ours, this is the best time to plant habitat seed mixes. (In areas further north, plant after the danger of frost is past.) The rain makes it easy for the habitat plants to get established, and by the time the spring crops are planted, some of the flowers should already be blooming and doing their part to support a healthy natural enemy complex to protect the new crop.
If you haven’t sown your habitat seeds yet, don’t fret. Keeping the habitat-to-be wet for a couple of weeks before planting will sprout weed seeds to help reduce weed problems later. Be careful not to disturb soil too much when killing the weeds before planting, though. Tilling can bring new weed seeds up to the surface, undoing the weed control benefits of pre-germinating the surface weed seeds. We’ve found that shallowly raking works well to pull up the weed seedlings without revealing too many new seeds.
See our Habitat Seed Mix page for more information on attracting beneficials with habitat plantings, along with a list of seed mixes we carry.
-Alia Tsang, bug farm intern
A handful of Insecta-Flora can help to attrach beneficial insects
Insecta-Flora is a flower seed blend that blooms through the seasons and years providing habitat for beneficial insects. Clovers and alfalfa are great habitat plants, but sometimes the showy look of Insecta-Flora containing less grass and legumes is preferred to the ever-popular and less expensive Beneficial Blend. Insecta Flora comes in Low (up to a foot high), Standard, and High (3 foot high). The Low mix provides nitrogen-fixing and erosion control as well as habitat.
Insecta-Flora as a vineyard covercrop in California.
Smaller beneficial insects will fly a couple hundred feet to an island of flowers that keep them going. Enhancing an upwind vineyard border yields a beneficial welcoming committee for invading pests. Covering bare ground with beneficial habitat mixes cuts heat reflection and dust to prevent spider mite problems. Mow or weed-whip half at a time and then the other half a few weeks later to concentrate the beneficials without driving them away. Wait until the flowers set to encourage reseeding.
Visit our Beneficial Materials Catalog at rinconvitova.com for more information.
You can also download our Insecta-Flora Bulletin as a PDF.
This article originally appeared in our Biocontrol Beat Winter 2008 Newetter.