Insects fall into two categories: the kind that ruin an otherwise great picnic, and the kind that eat those pests! If you garden, you likely already know that beneficial insects are a powerful ally. They can help tame the population of insects that eat your plants.
But how to get them there? It’s easy to draw good insects into your garden with the right plants. Pesticide free!
Plants that Attract Beneficial Insects
Want to reduce the population of aphids and mites in your garden? Attract lacewings by planting dill-fernleaf. Dill is tall and airy and doesn’t block sunlight, so it can be planted anywhere in the garden. The lovely lacewings will feast on small insects and their eggs. The bonus? You’ll have delicious dill leaf to use in recipes all summer long!
Cilantrois an herb that attracts ladybugs. Ladybugs eat undesirable insects and eggs when they’re young. Cilantro is best planted at the outside edge of the garden. Clip the aromatic leaves continually throughout the growing season.
Certain Flies Can Help
Parsley-Triple Curledis another short herb, best planted at the edge of the garden. This makes it easy to clip the leaves regularly. Parsley attracts tachinid flies and hoverflies that feed on aphids and mealybugs, among other damaging pests.
Parasitic mini-wasps destroy a variety of nuisance insects by implanting their eggs inside the host. The eggs feed on the host and eventually kill it. Invite these beneficial guests to your garden by planting dill, parsley and cilantro throughout your plot.
Lavenderis a fragrant and beautiful plant. Its delicate purple flowers attract parasitic mini-wasps and hoverflies. Lavender grows in bushy clumps and should be planted at the outside edge of the vegetable garden. Here it can add aesthetic interest, as well as lure the most beneficial insects. At the end of the season, clip stems and flower buds for drying and using in sachets and potpourris. True lavender fans use the leaves and flowers to make essential oils for flavoring exotic ice cream and candy treats.
Perennial herbs spearmintand speedwell (Veronica) have many medicinal and dietary uses. Plus their tiny fragrant flowers draw big-eyed bugs, hoverflies and ladybugs. Since perennials come back each year, you should choose a growing spot that’s fairly permanent. Plan for their perpetual reappearance each spring. Spearmint can be especially invasive and is best contained with plastic barriers to block the spread of the roots under the soil line.
Enjoy the beauty, fragrance and culinary uses of these herbs. And rest assured that they are also protecting your vegetable garden from pests!
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By Pamela Crawford, author, Easy Patio Veggies & Herbs
Photographs by Pamela Crawford
Pamela has written a great article about mixing herbs in containers. Herbs are natural companions with different textures for interest. The herb mix of parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme offers lots of flavor from a small combination loaded with textural interest.
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