Long before gardening chemicals (pesticides and fertilizers) were been used, Mother Nature had come up with her own system for plants growth, thrive, and flourish and If you’ve ever been in the forest, a field of wildflowers, even just in your own backyard, you can see that system in all of the lovely things doing perfectly well on their own.
To truly help your garden flourish, and not consider the use of harmful chemicals, take some knowledge from mother nature and try tapping into the environmentally-friendly system of beneficial insects and companion planting.
Most people probably know what they don’t want in their garden, this will mostly depend on where you live and what you are planting, but there is a myriad of insects that can be attracted to your yard with various shrubs and plants.
A little bit of study in your area can give you more detail, but below are a few popular insects that are helpful for gardens. The list isn’t awfully long, as companion planting is also discussed below in this article as well.
Beneficial Insects for the Garden
The presence of bees in the garden (or farms) results in the production of flowers and food. Pollination or Cross-pollination keeps crops and flowers healthy, diverse, and growing in new places, and also helps in the propagation of plants.
One-third of man’s food supply is dependent on bees, and this gives a healthy boost to the economy as well.
This is a brief list of plants/herbs/flowers/trees that are attractive to bees. There are many of them, so it isn’t difficult finding one to suit your taste.
Plants attracted to bees
Clover, Poppies, Sunflowers, Zinnias, Geraniums, Tansy, Dahlias, Blackberries, Echinacea, Squash, Thyme, Sage, Mints, Honeysuckle, Hawthorns, Poplar, Sycamore.
Remember that Bees aren’t color-blind, and they prefer blue, purple, yellow, and white flowers. They also like habiting in sunny areas and are oftentimes more receptive to native plants they are familiar with.
These good looking bugs may be pleasant to us, but they are aphids and a blackfly’s worst enemy. A single ladybug that lives for a year can eat over 5,000 aphids, so if you find them invading your plant, don’t spray it with chemicals.
If you find you are having a hard time attracting them in your garden, you can order them online and release them into your garden (doing so at night will reduce the number that flies away.)
Also, you can wear a light netting or mesh over an infested plant and release the ladybugs underneath it-it won’t take long for the ladybugs to find the food.
Plants attracted to ladybugs
Wild mustard, Calendula, Dill, Marigold, Nettle (which can be used for tea), Tansy, Wild carrot, Water (this isn’t a plant, but watering your garden helps them stay put)
Butterflies and flowers are known to co-habitat. Not only are they pleasant to watch, but butterflies help pollinate flowers in the garden and keep it growing and reproducing.
Butterfly gardens are also a great way to introduce young people to gardening, the value of which can never be underestimated.
Plants attracted to butterfly
Butterfly bush, Lupine, Pansy, Mint, Lilac, Sage, Purple Coneflower, and Snapdragon.
These gentle, slow-moving night-time feeders eat mostly nectar as adults, but as larvae, they have the nickname, aphid lion.
A single green lacewing larva can eat up to 200 aphids a week, Provided there are attractive plants for the adults, they can be lured to stay and reproduce to cut down on the aphids in your garden.
They will lay their eggs off the ends of a plant with aphids to give the larva enough food when they hatch, and they also eat certain mites and whiteflies as well.
Plants attracted to green lacewings
Angelica, Caraway, Dill, Fennel, Tansy, Prairie sunflower
The big-eyed bug is a tough insect that can thrive in a wide variety of habitats, and eat pests such as spiders, mites and other small insects like whiteflies, cabbage loppers aphids, etc.
While not as nice-looking as a butterfly, they have big appetites and do well at devouring their food. Another bonus is that they eat insects throughout their life stages and not just as larvae or adults.
Plants attracted to big-eyed bug
A lot of plants in the daisy family appeal to them.
Marigold, Chamomile, Yarrow, Common daisies
Companion planting is a way of controlling or deterring pests by means of one plant acting as a decoy or deterrent for another. Companion planting helps in pest control, as well as the plants helping each other.
For example, a taller plant could cast shade for a sun-sensitive plant and sometimes you attract beneficial insects in the process. The following are just a few examples of well-tested companion plant combinations.
Corn and Beans
Beans usually attract beneficial insects that feed on corn pests, e.g., leaf beetles and fall-armyworms.
Cucumbers and sunflowers
A sunflower has sturdy stalks that give support for cucumber vines, while the cucumbers broad leaves shade the soil and keep it moist, it also helps reduce weeds in the garden.
Basil and Tomatoes
Basil and tomatoes are a great match as foods, but they are also a great match when planted together. Basil helps fend off spider mites, aphids, and whiteflies that are harmful to tomatoes.
Strawberries and lettuces
Lettuce is a shallow growing vegetable, while strawberries stretch their roots farther into the soil. They make good growing companions as they aren’t competing for root space.
Legumes and Soil
Legumes help in reducing the need for nitrogen fertilizer. Given that the soil is good for them, they convert nitrogen gas from the air into a plant-available form, and add it to the soil, decreasing the need for commercial fertilizer.
They can also lead to an increase in soil fertility and are most beneficial when grown in companionship with a wide variety of plants.
Companion planting does take a bit of study to make sure that one plant doesn’t actually affect the growth of another in any way, but it is an incredible way to improve your garden naturally. You can of course increase beyond pairs of two for companions.
Gardening is creating a little bit of that fascinating wild beauty, and benefitting from it, close to home. It will look counterintuitive that you would soak your plants in chemicals to make them look good or healthy, especially when we have the natural system that’s been proven (and safe) for ages and are great for gardening.