Twila E. Palmer's Blog
Are your home flowerbeds or garden plagued by insect pests? Experienced gardens rely on the many ways that herbs benefit the landscape, especially the vegetable garden. For centuries herbs have played a prominent role in garden lore as gardeners and growers utilized “companion planting” as a method of pest control. Even though you have used fertile, organic soil and tended each plant the way it should be grown, providing for the plants needs and proper culture, insect pests do appear. Herbs can help you control the problem and minimize damage. There are a great many ways in which plants help with pest control. A few exotic tropical plants consume bugs outright, using the ingested material as plant food. Other plants help in the war on bugs by emitting a scent that attracts them to one area of the garden for easy handpicking and removal. Still other plants are used in the preparation of insect repelling sprays. Some plants ward off insect infestation by having a sharp or bitter taste and a pungent smell that confuses “critters” thus protecting companion crop that might be subject to insect attack. This method is known as companion planting. Herbs – Heroes Of The Garden Some gardeners consider companion planting to be somewhere between wisdom and witchcraft; other savvy gardeners do not question traditional methods and folk tales. Rather they follow the old ways of planting asparagus with tomatoes and parsley, and carrots with dill. Traditional gardeners have learned through years of observation that specific types of cultivated plants, grown adjacent to each other in the garden exhibit a beneficial effect upon each other. Fennel, beans, and cucumbers, when grown separately do all right on their own. However, when grown together cucumbers love beans and produce an abundant crop of both, but beans hate fennel. When fennel and beans are grown next to each other, neither crop does well. Aromatic herbs play a pivotal role in the deterring the presence of certain insects in the garden. Insects are attracted to or repulsed by the odor of these plants from the pungent essential oils the plant secrets. As an example, caterpillars are strongly attracted to the mustard scented essential oils of cabbage, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts. On the other hand, mosquitos, flies, gnats, ants, and other pests are repelled by the scents of lavender, thyme, citronella, rosemary, basil, dill, and all varieties of mint. Organic gardeners find that interspersing these pungent and powerfully scented herbs between groupings of plants or in alternative rows in the garden, will ward off an insect infestation that would otherwise cause havoc in the home landscape. Choosing The Right Insect Repelling Plants For Your Garden Most herbs used for companion planting grow well in United States Hardiness Zones 3 through 9, with some doing best in colder climates and some herbs thriving in tropical climates. To determine which companion planting methods are most effective in your part of the country, talk to your local county extension agent for advice and plant suggestions. Herbs native to your local area will have the strongest properties to defeat local insects.