Sometimes you see something in the garden that makes you shake your head and say, “What?!?”
I had this experience recently. I was checking the vegetable garden and I was amazed at how good all of the plants looked. There was almost no insect damage on any of the plants and I haven’t used any insecticide this year. I thought it might be because it hasn’t been too hot (until now) and we’ve also had a steady supply of rain. If plants aren’t stressed, they can often ward off insect damage.
I then noticed that there was some redroot pigweed (Amaranthus retroflexus) growing in the garden. This is a common weed in the summer months. But what surprised me is that while the beans, peppers, zucchini and tomatoes looked great, the pigweed looked like an army of insects had attacked it. The leaves were full of holes! I checked the weeds and couldn’t see any insects but the holes were clearly insect damage.
I’ve never had a vegetable garden with so few insect holes in the leaves of the vegetables and I’ve never seen pigweed with so many holes! I did some checking online and some organic sites recommend letting a few pigweed plants grow with your peppers because leafminers prefer to attack the pigweed. I’ve never had a leafminer problem but maybe pigweed is a prefered host for a lot of other insects as well.
I’m not sure what’s going on but it’s obvious that the pigweed is somehow drawing the “bad” insects away from the vegetables and letting them chew on its leaves. I was getting ready to hoe up all of the pigweed but I’ve had a change of heart. I’m going to let some of it grow. I’ll cut it back so it doesn’t get too big and I certainly won’t let it flower – each plant can produce tens of thousands of seeds and I don’t want those being added to the garden soil!
This year, I’m going to embrace this common weed and let it grow and attract the insects in the garden. I’ve never seen this happen before and I don’t know if it’ll happen again, but for now, it’s amazing. All I can say is that this year, my pigweed’s magic!