Thursday, June 10, 2021

Attract Beneficial Insects to Your Garden

By: Candice Keast

Ladybug perched on a flower bud.
Adult Ladybug - Coccinellidae

Throughout the growing season, you'll definitely encounter a variety of different insects in your garden, depending on what you're growing. You might think that most insects are pests and bad for your garden but on the contrary: there are a number of beneficial insects that help keep your garden happy and healthy, naturally. There are three different types of beneficial insects: predatory, pollinators, and parasitizers.

In this blog post, I'll highlight a few garden guardians.


Ladybugs

Perhaps one of the most recognizable beneficial insects is the ladybug or lady beetle. Not just a pretty face, these bugs can eat up to 5,000 insects throughout their life. Ladybugs will eat aphids, scales, spider mites, and thrips.

 

Attract ladybugs by growing dill, dandelion, calendula, chives, cilantro, marigold, and yarrow.


Ladybug larva on a leaf.
Ladybug Larva - Coccinellidae

Have you seen this bug roaming your garden? Don't let its troublemaking look and spikey body intimidate you. I recently learned that these bugs are ladybug larvae - this is what they look like before they turn into the pretty red beetles with black spots. They're even more helpful than adult ladybugs because their appetite for aphids is even bigger!

 

Lacewings

Green lacewings are beautiful insects with large lacy wings and are excellent natural predators. Their  larvae consume aphids, caterpillars, cutworms, whitefly, spider mites, thrips, and mealybugs.

 

Attract lacewings by growing dill, dandelion, cilantro, and Queen Anne's lace. 


Green lacewing on a leaf.
Green Lacewing - Chrysopidae

Soldier beetle

Solider bugs are cousins of stink bugs and eat aphids, cucumber beetle larvae, caterpillars, and grasshopper eggs.


Attract soldier bugs by growing goldenrod, hydrangea, marigold, milkweed, and even catnip! 


Soldier beetle on blade of grass.
Soldier beetle - Cantharidae

Assassin bugs

Assassin bugs are beneficial to your garden as they eat aphids, beetles, caterpillars, flies and mosquitoes. If you see an assassin bug in your garden, let it be. They are known to bite if touched or disturbed. See link below for picture. 


Hoverflies

Adult hoverflies are often mistaken for bees because of their colouring, but you can distinguish them by looking at their wings. Bees and wasps have four wings, while hoverflies have two. They hover and dart about, looking for pollen and nectar. Also known as Syrphid fly, the adults are considered pollinators. However, the larvae are very effective predators as they eat aphids and mealybugs.

 

Attract hoverflies by growing calendula, dill, and garlic chives.


Hoverfly on a leaf.
Hoveryfly - Syrphidae

Native Bees

Did you know that Toronto is home to over 360 species of bees? Pollinators are critical to the survival of most food crops and flowering plants. In fact, it is said that 1 out of every 3 bites of food is because of pollinators. Unfortunately, native bees are in decline because of several factors, including habitat loss, invasive species, pesticides, climate change, and more. Furthermore, native bees are the most specialized and efficient pollinators. When native bees disappear, they disappear forever.


Attract native bees by planting native plants like Anise hyssop, wild geranium, nodding onion and New England asters. Check out our Wild About Bees page for more native plant ideas.


Toronto's Official Bee - the metallic green sweat bee on the centre of an echinacea flower.
Toronto's Official Bee - Agapostemon virescens


Braconid Wasps 

Braconid wasps are small, non-aggressive parasitoids. They sting and lay eggs inside of their prey's body. Their prey of choice are tomato hornworms, but if there's none around, they'll lay eggs in other pests like cabbage worms, aphids, beetle larvae, leaf miners, etc.  

Attract braconids by growing carrots, dill, lemon balm, and parsley. 

Braconid wasp on leaf.
Braconid Wasp - Braconidae 

Honourable Mentions 

Spiders and centipedes often get a bad rap because of their looks, but these insects are incredible for your garden. Centipedes will eat soil-dwelling pests like worms, slugs, and fly pupae. Most spiders you see in the garden are harmless to humans. If you see a spider in your garden, leave them be – they'll be doing you a favour by eating pests in your garden – including mosquitos! 

If you want a more in-depth look at the insects listed above, check out this page.

As always, feel free to ask questions in the comment section below. If you come across a beneficial insect in your garden, share with us on social media by tagging @LiveGreenTO and using the hashtag #GetGrowing.


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 Get Growing Toronto Newsletter 

Did you know that Live Green Toronto has expanded the Get Growing program to include a monthly newsletter? Whether you're growing food for the first time or a seasoned gardener, there are always new things to learn and try. Our goal is to help you on your gardening journey with lots of tips and resources. Get Growing with us and sign up here!

Friday, May 21, 2021

Turn up the heat on your food garden!

By: Candice Keast

Are you excited to get your summer balcony ready?! Now is the ideal time to beautify your outdoor space by growing food -- and we've got all the info you need right here.

As a great intro (if we do say so ourselves), check out Live Green Toronto's 3-part Get Growing Toronto video series, which helps you along your container or balcony gardening journey. In the first video, we go through the process of turning a balcony that was largely unused into a food-producing space. If you don't have a balcony, not to worry. The video and the information in this post can be applied to any outdoor container garden location. You can grow food just about anywhere!



There are a few other things to keep in mind when you are getting your garden started. In this post, we will cover: 

  • Hardening off
  • Transplanting
  • Using compost
  • Spacing
  • Companion planting
  • Drainage/watering, and 
  • Vertical supports

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Keep a Gardening Journal!

By: Candice Keast

If you're new to gardening, you'll quickly realize that a lot of it is trial and error. Thankfully, you can learn from your mistakes by keeping a written record of everything that goes on in your garden. After all, becoming a better gardener just means you're learning from your previous mistakes.
 

 Why keep a gardening journal? 

Keep a gardening journal to:

  • give yourself historical information of your garden from previous years 
  • keep track of your plans, lists, and key dates for easy reference 
  • help you remember what works and doesn't work
  • improve your gardening skills over time

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Get Growing this spring: a guide to indoor seeding

By: Candice Keast

As spring approaches, gardeners are often faced with one big question: do we start our garden in May with seedlings purchased at our local garden centre OR do we get ahead of the game and grow from seed? Of course, you can do a combination of the two - choose whatever is right for you!


Seedlings growing in an egg carton.

I'm on the indoor seeding train because it allows me to put on my gardening hat earlier in the year. I start indoor seeding in March and early April, then when the weather warms up, outdoor seed in late April and May. Growing from seed is inexpensive and fun but can be challenging. Are you up for a challenge?

Read more to learn about:

Monday, September 28, 2020

Our Neighbourhood Climate Action Champions program has officially launched!











Neighbourhood Climate Action Champions will inspire, motivate, and encourage other residents to undertake community-focused climate actions to help achieve TransformTO net zero greenhouse gas emissions target by 2050 or sooner. Check out the program description, eligibility, and key dates over on www.livegreentoronto.ca.

In this Q&A with our Volunteer Coordinator, Ryan Cheung, we dive deeper into the details of this exciting new program.

How many spots are open in the program?

10 to 20 candidates will be selected to be champions this round. 

Is it possible to be a champion in a neighbourhood outside of my own?

Yes, it is possible to champion in a neighbourhood that is different from your own if you have existing connections or have worked closely with that neighbourhood before. It is important that our champions know their neighbourhoods well and are connected to what's going on in the neighbourhoods already.  

Is it possible to team up with another person and be team champions for the same neighbourhood?

Yes. As we review the applications that come in, there may be opportunities for champions to team up for the same neighbourhood.

How will the community projects be funded?

Each champion will receive an honorarium of $500. It is up to each individual champion to decide how they want to use this funding. For example, they may use part of the honorarium towards compensation for their own time and contribute another part to their neighbourhood project. City staff can also provide support with looking into additional funding options for the projects.

How many projects are champions expected to implement per year?

Each champion is expected to implement at least one project in their neighbourhood. The project can be big or small and should cater to the needs and priorities of the neighbourhood. Every little bit helps and will be successful in its own way!

With the COVID-19 pandemic still happening, will there be any in-person events allowed?

At this time, we recommend that our champions follow provincial COVID-19 safety guidelines and opt to host virtual meetings. 

Is this a year-round program?

The program will be running all year long. We anticipate another round of recruitments in 2021.

Will the Neighbourhood Climate Action Champions program run again every year from now?

Yes, we are hoping that the Neighbourhood Climate Action Champions program will be a long-standing program in Toronto.

I live in the downtown core in a high-rise building. Can I apply to the program? 

Absolutely! We think there is a lot of value in engaging with residents who live in multi-residential buildings on climate action and there are a lot of opportunities to take action together.

If I live outside of Toronto, can I still participate in the Neighbourhood Climate Action Champions program?

Unfortunately, this program is only open to Toronto residents. 

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If you have an important question regarding the Neighbourhood Climate Action Champions program, post your question in the comments section below or send an email to livegreen@toronto.ca. We would love to hear from you!