From Ready Nutrition:

Everyone who has tried to grow something outside, be it in a planter or in a garden or in a row, has found that nature really doesn’t give a darn about your fence or your wall or your dedicated weed pulling. At every given chance, some seed or bug or lizard will move in to the veritable Eden you have set up for them. You can spray the weeds and the aphids, put nets up against the birds, and build taller than you thought you’d need fences to keep the deer out. There are many, many articles out there on how to rid your garden of pests – but this is not one of them.

For a list of plants that attract beneficial insects and creatures, click here.

Many of us are able to see a butterfly or a ladybug and recognize that it is beneficial to the garden, but most of us run across organisms from time to time that leave us scratching our heads and wondering if it is good or bad for the garden. There are some animals that get a bad reaction simply by the way they look or move, and we don’t really consider what part they play in the food chain that is happening all around us. Although we are striving to live a lower impact, more Earth friendly lifestyle, we need to know a little more about those strange neighbors in or near your garden as they will help you in unexpected ways.

Snakes

To knock out one that many people have trouble with, let’s talk snakes. I know that snakes may conjure images of giant pythons or deadly cobras from action movies, but snakes are extremely diverse and widespread. Many healthy, established yards and gardens will have a resident snake or two, though you may never see them. While it still holds true that you should take no chances with your region’s venomous snakes, such as the rattlesnake, many other species are peaceful cohabitants that can help keep the real pests out. Non-venomous snakes, such as garden snakes, sometimes called garter snakes or gardener snakes, are found pretty much everywhere and come in a huge array of colors and patterns.

These small and harmless snakes have big appetites and are known to consume most everything they can overpower. This includes slugs, leeches, ants, crickets, and rodents, all of which are damaging to crops or human health and safety. These types of snakes generally do not grow very large, and spend most of their days on the ground, making the impact on songbird populations negligible or nonexistent. Some species will pursue eggs when available.  Anybody who can get past their aversion to snakes and give them and chance will find them to be a valuable asset in maintaining a low pest population.

The cousins to the aforementioned snakes, and another useful predator in the garden, are lizards. Many folk find lizards to be easier to handle than snakes and they still offer serious bug munching power. Lizards…

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