The world’s food supply depends, in large part, on insects, birds, and other small mammals. Bees, butterflies, moths, wasps, and other insects pollinate many of our crops.
Pollinator insects depend on flowers. Large groups and diverse species are key to attracting these insects. Certain species of plants, when combined, protect each other by attracting pollinators, repelling pests, and increasing plant productivity. The practice of grouping these plants together is known as companion planting.
Combinations to Try
- Basil, if left to flower attracts hoards of bees. Also, it improves the flavor of tomatoes and lettuce.
- Combine calendula with summer squash; sweet peas with runner beans; and cosmos with cucumbers.
- Other flowering companions for vegetable gardens include alyssum, bachelor’s button, bee balm, nasturtiums, and rosemary.
- Plant dill, oregano, sage, and thyme liberally throughout the garden and allow it to flower.
- Some plants, like tomatoes, are self-pollinating. For these plants, companion planting is most often about repelling damaging insects. Marigolds are one of the most effective repellents for bad bugs and can be combined with all of your garden vegetables.
- Geraniums, lavender, and mint also repel damaging insects.
Creating a Healthy Environment
Plant as many flowers as vegetables for a healthy population of pollinators. Weave clusters of old-fashioned, open-pollinated flowers in and around your fruits and vegetables or surround your garden with a flower border.
Do not use insecticides and other pesticides. If you have to use them, do so only as a last resort and use sparingly. Spray only on calm days during the middle of the day when insect activity is at a minimum. Use organic products. Remember, organic pesticides can cause harm if improperly used. If using a broadcast spray, beneficial insects will be collateral damage and the damaging bugs will quickly return in force.