The native plant hedgerows at Veggielution Community Farm are an essential part of our farm that demonstrate an important concept of sustainable agriculture: ecosystem diversity. Our hedgerows attract a variety of beneficial wildlife that helps pollinate crops and regulate pest populations. In addition, the hedgerows are used to help educate our visitors, not only about organic farming, but the potential to use native plants in drought-tolerant, ecological farming as well. In 2012, the Guadalupe Coyote Resource Conservation District generously provided Veggielution with funding to plant hedgerows around our 6-acre farm. We are very grateful that GCRCD was able to contribute such a useful asset to our urban farm.
The hedgerows are generally 6 feet to 20-feet wide and planted with a variety of species that contribute various benefits to the farm. Deergrass is a common and important native bunch grass that is a habitat for several species such as ladybugs. Coyote Brush is another very important plants - it hosts over 80 species of beneficial insects, including predatory wasps, native skippers, and flies. California Lilac is another great species to have in our hedgerows because they are extremely drought tolerant and are very popular with bees and butterflies.
These plants are only a fraction of the species that make up our native plant hedgerows. In general, the native hedgerows have provided great control for a variety of pests that would otherwise negatively impact our crops. Aphids will become a problem from time to time, but within a week or two of showing up you will see effected plants covered in ladybugs devouring these pests hungrily. Cabbage moths are another common pest that is virtually non-existent on our farm thanks to parisitic wasps and other predators that attack their larvae. These predatory insects depend on the shelter and food sources of our native hedgerows so that they can remain on the farm year round.
The concept of native edge plantings can easily be applied in any home garden to help control pests. Do some research on beneficial California Native plants, and find a home around your garden for a few beneficial species like deergrass, coyote brush and others. The goal is to eliminate the use of non-organic pesticides, for the safety of people and our local environment.
You might have read our recent blog post about the Bagrada bug, the new Central Coast pest that feeds on plants such as broccoli, cabbage, kale, and cauliflower. The Bagrada bug has meant significant losses to our overall crop production in the past month, and unfortunately this bug does not have any natural enemies in our area. We hope that over time, the farm ecosystem will balance out with the native hedgerows serving as the base for insects that will help keep the Bagrada bug in check.
The hedgerows are a central part of our pest management strategy, and they are all thanks to the generosity and support of The Guadalupe- Coyote Resource Conservation District. Veggielution would not be able to function without the help friends and supporters like the GCRCD!