The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Spiders and comfrey

Spider with egg sacAs I sink my hands into mass after mass of fallen leaves, I am always happy to see creepy crawlies.  Tuesday was no exception.  The leaves I raked out of the woods came with mushrooms, daddy-long-legs, one salamander (who I returned to the woods), and several spiders.

Despite many folks' odd antipathy to spiders, the arachnids are in fact a very helpful generalist predator in the garden.  Spiders will eat just about anything that moves, so they keep insect population explosions from getting out of hand.  But spiders hate bare soil, so they are often absent from conventional agricultural situations.

Mulching is the best way to attract spiders to your garden, but having perennial plants around is also a good bet.  Comfrey seems to be especially attractive, even more so if you let the winter-killed leaves lie on the ground rather than "cleaning" them up.  One study in Switzerland found 240 spiders for every square meter of soil beneath comfrey leaves.  Wow!

From: Burki, H.M., and A. Hausammann.  1992.  Uberwinterung von Arthropoden im Boden und an Ackerunkrautern kunstlich angelegter Achkerkrautstreifen.  Agrarokologie. 7:1-158.  (I can't actually read this, but the study is cited all over the organic gardening world, so I assume someone can read German.  I got it most recently out of Edible Forest Gardens.)

Check out our homemade chicken waterer.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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