A Good Bug Mix

Everyone who has been growing anything in the garden is familiar with bugs. Aphids, cutworms, mealy bugs are just a few that thrive on our vegetables and flowers causing damage and loss of produce.

You may be able to recognize some beneficial insects such honeybees, ladybugs, damsel bugs, hoverflies, encarsia and the green lacewing. These insects are the natural enemies of garden pests. Enlisting the help of these “good bugs” that will battle and help control pest outbreaks makes sense. It also reduces the need for expensive chemical pesticides leaving some extra cash in your pocket. This is great news for us gardeners because it means that there is an effective, non-toxic approach for solving the “bug-blues”!

So how do we attract the “good bugs” in our garden? By planting a ‘good bug blend’. Treat the whole garden (or property or your balcony) as a living, thriving ecosystem and working within that context. This means enhancing – or introducing – natural biological controls already present in natural and garden ecosystems. I tend to grow my flowers (lavender and marigolds in particular) with my vegetables to attract pollinators.

Before suggesting a good bug blend, let me list some benefits of these “cover crops”:
• They increase organic matter and available nitrogen.
• They increase earthworms and beneficial microorganisms
• Stabilize soil to prevent erosion
• Bring deep-rooted minerals to the surface
• Improve water, root and air penetration of soil
• Provide habitat, nectar and pollen for beneficial insects while choking out weeds.

A good bug blend would ensure something is flowering all year round to attract beneficial insects. Plant in areas that can go a little wild, such as garden edges or along fence lines. Planting under fruit trees to form a living mulch is also a great idea. It is always good to have parts of your garden that are a little wild or messy to provide habitat and encourage birds as well. If you have no space then planting them in pots on the balcony will also do.

A suggested mix would include:
• Red clover
• Alyssum
• Cosmos
• Marigolds
• Queen Anne’s Lace
• Buckwheat
• Lucerne
• Dill
• Caraway
• Coriander
• Phacelia,
• Gypsophila
• Lavender

Would love to hear your thoughts and experiences about growing plants to attract bugs in the garden.