The birds, the bees and the bugs

Dr Compost aka Ben Elms is a permaculture and gardening expert who’s been operating in the unusual Central Otago climate for over 20 years. Funded by QLDC and delivered by Wanaka Wastebusters, the Dr Compost project aims to reduce organic waste going to landfill.

Got a question? Check out @drcompost on Facebook or benelms.com

A thriving insect, bee and bird population helps our gardens and the local biome flourish. Like it or not, without the creepy crawlies life on earth ain’t fun.

Positive ecosystem actions could include a mass planting of comfrey in a disused corner, a row of lavender, or creating an insect hotel. There’s good insects (bees, parasitic wasps, ladybirds…) and bad insects (aphids, slugs, white cabbage butterfly…). Some cause havoc and require a little intervention from time to time, but if you have an infestation of ‘bad bugs’ the ‘good bugs’ usually aren't far behind.

In a garden with a good mixture of flowers and shrubs you shouldn’t have to worry too much about insect attacks. Nature balances itself out. The so-called ‘bad bugs’ are clearing up weak plants just as nature intended.

As well as planting a diverse, insect-friendly plot, remember to feed and grow the life under your feet. The more robust and alive your soil is, the healthier your plants will be. Regular applications of compost promote healthy, thriving soil life. Liquid seaweed is a ‘silver bullet’ for the garden, supplying minerals and micro nutrients to help you grow healthier plants. I recommend using a seaweed foliar spray once every one to two weeks.

Encourage hard-working birds, frogs and skinks too; they gobble up insects we don’t like and birds poop top-quality fertiliser.


Top Tips

  • Create a central bed devoted to bee-friendly and edible flowers (think borage, chives, marigold, strawberry, pansies, nasturtium, fennel and lavender).

  • Perennial herbs are great for year-round diversity (think thyme, rosemary, artichoke, lemon balm, oregano).

  • Create an insect hotel by tying up bundles of branches left after pruning and tuck them under a tree or shrub.

  • Create a small pond to attract some frogs and add a few rocks for skinks to sunbathe on.

  • Keep your property spray free. Glyphosates, pesticides and fungicides create more problems for your garden.


Words Ben Elms


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