The Book For Getting Bugs Back in the Garden

Invite beneficial insects to your gardening with this garden book and bug guide from Hobby Farms contributor Jessica Walliser.

by Cory Hershberger
PHOTO: drphotomoto/Flickr

Title: Attracting Beneficial Bugs to Your Garden
Author: Jessica Walliser
Publisher: Timber Press, Inc.
Release Date: January 2014
Cover Price: $24.95
Target Audience: Gardeners wanting to eliminate pesticides and increase pollination; bug enthusiasts of any skill or interest level

Jessica Walliser, organic gardener extraordinaire and blogger behind’s Dirt on Gardening, did not start out as a bug lover. In fact, as she writes in the introduction of her latest book, Attracting Beneficial Bugs to Your Garden, that when she worked as a professional gardener and oversaw 40 gardens for various clients, she considered bugs nefarious creatures. “Since my crew and I only visited each garden once per week, anytime I saw a bug, I saw the potential for a less-than-perfect garden and a disappointed client,” she writes. “I carried an arsenal in the car and brought out the pump sprayer whenever I deemed it necessary.”

Thankfully, she eventually hired someone who set her straight, teaching her about how dangerous chemical pesticides were and how not all insects are destructive. Now, Walliser finds herself a bigger fan of the insects on her plants than the plants themselves and has focused these energies into a helpful and comprehensive book on promoting the presence of beneficial insects.

Consider this book a companion to her previous one, Good Bug Bad Bug (St. Lynn’s Press, 2008), a guide to identifying the bugs in your garden and on your farm that classifies them as pest or beneficial. Her new book book goes a step further, equipping you with the tools and info necessary to create a garden landscape that protects and promotes the habitat of both bug types. You don’t need the prior book to enjoy and appreciate this one, though—this volume has considerable information on common beneficial bugs, including their feeding and egg-laying habits.

There’s also a lengthy section that explores the best plants for beneficial bugs, detailing growth preferences, appropriate companion-planting strategies and which bugs will thrive on each included plant. There is also a brief section on plants good for bugs but not necessarily good for gardens, such as poison hemlock, which is extremely toxic to both humans and livestock but holds habitat for soldier bugs, rove beetles, ladybugs and syrphid flies, just to name a few.

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She also includes garden planning diagrams that outline a variety of different ways to incorporate insect-friendly plants either into existing gardens or as the focus of a brand-new garden bed.

Arguably, though, the best part of the book is the full-color photography—each insect and plant variety gets a profile shot, taken either by the author or a handful of contributors. The insect photos are of particular note: They’re so impressive that some of them look almost like studio shots. You can see Walliser’s passion for these critters in her careful photography, and when she discusses the inner workings of the insect world and how they can affect our gardens, her photos provide a peek into that elusive, unseen society.

She may not be an entomologist proper, but Walliser’s zeal for insects is catching, and it found a happy partner in her longstanding love of gardening. Attracting Beneficial Bugs to Your Garden is the fruit of that union, and it should be found on every gardener and bug lover’s bookshelf.

The Final Word

For a better appreciation of the insects that keep our world spinning while maximizing your garden’s output, pick up Attracting Beneficial Bugs to Your Garden—you may just find yourself planting some buckwheat strips alongside your potatoes or studying the undersides of leaves in much greater detail, looking for those elusive tachinid flies.

For more information on beneficial bugs, check out:

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