At Vego Garden, we believe in promoting a healthy and diverse ecosystem in our gardens, which includes planting to attract beneficial insects and provide them with food and shelter. There are a number of natural predators of the most common garden pests. If you grow organically and provide for their needs, they will help maintain a balanced ecosystem and reduce the need for harmful interventions.
Although this list is by no means exhaustive, the plants discussed below are rockstars at attracting beneficial insects and promoting a balanced ecosystem in your garden.
Carrot family (caraway, bishop's weed, coriander, dill, parsley, Queen Anne's lace, fennel)
The flowers of the carrot family (Apiaceae), are a favorite among beneficial insects, especially ladybugs, tachinid flies and lacewings. The flowers of the carrot family plants are also a good source of nectar for adult beneficial insects. To grow these plants, sow seeds directly in the garden bed after the danger of frost has passed. They prefer full sun and well drained soil.
Sweet alyssum is a beautiful and fragrant low-growing flowering plant that is a great addition to all gardens. Its tiny flowers are highly attractive to a variety of beneficial insects, including hoverflies, lacewings, and parasitic wasps. Sweet alyssum is easy to grow from seed or transplants, prefers full sun and well drained soil.
Yarrow is a beautiful perennial plant that is highly attractive to beneficial insects like ladybugs, lacewings, parasitic wasps and hoverflies. To grow yarrow, plant it in full sun and well drained soil. The common yarrow variety is preferred by beneficial insects.
Sunflowers are a favorite among gardeners and beneficial insects alike. Their pollen and nectar rich blooms attract a wide variety of insects, including bees, butterflies, and parasitic wasps. These wasps are particularly beneficial as they lay their eggs in the larvae of certain pests, like tomato hornworms and cabbage loopers. Sunflowers are best grown by directly seeding them in the garden. They prefer full sun and well drained soil.
Cosmos are an easy to grow annual flower that is highly attractive to beneficial insects like hoverflies, parasitic wasps and lacewings. Cosmos flowers are also a good source of nectar for adult beneficial insects. To grow cosmos, plant seeds directly in the garden after the danger of frost has passed. They prefer full sun and well drained soil.
Spearmint is a fragrant herb that is highly attractive to beneficial insects like ladybugs and hoverflies. Spearmint also repels some garden pests like ants and flea beetles. To grow spearmint, plant it in full sun or partial shade and well drained soil.
Crimson clover is a cover crop that is highly attractive to beneficial insects like ladybugs, lacewings, damsel bugs and parasitic wasps. Crimson clover also helps to improve soil health by fixing nitrogen in the soil. It prefers full sun and well drained soil. Try growing it as a living mulch under long season crops that have some decent spacing between them such as cauliflower and kale.
Key points to remember:
- Most beneficials need pollen and nectar to efficiently reproduce. Plant a diversity of flowering plants to maintain year round blooms.
- Provide diverse and permanent habitat in the form of hedgerows or some perennial beds. Some beneficials need habitat, not pollen or nectar.
- Have a water source nearby.
- Always positively identify pests before destroying them. There are many beneficial species that look like they might be pests!
In conclusion, planting a diverse range of flowering plants and maintaining habitat in your garden can help to attract beneficial insects like ladybugs, lacewings, praying mantises, assassin bugs, damsel bugs, ground beetles, minute pirate bugs, hoverflies, tachinid flies, and parasitic wasps. By providing year round habitat and food for these insects and avoiding the use of harmful chemicals, you'll set the stage for them to balance the ecosystem in your garden. Remember to plant a diverse range of flowers and herbs throughout the year to provide a consistent source of food for them.