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May 28, 2012 02:30 PM

Flowers in the vegetable garden.

What do you grow to either ward off bad bugs or to lure the good ones in your vegetable beds? I am growing marigolds, of course. What are your thoughts about Four O'Clocks and Tansy?

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  1. I'm skeptical about measurable benefits to the vegetables but the flowers do so much good for the soul that it doesn't matter.

    1 Reply
    1. I like to grow native wildflowers that bring in beneficial insects to my garden and most of the herbs grown can bring a lot in when they flower, as well. To me, it's a nice balance and it doesn't hurt that it looks pretty too!

      I have Alyssum, Arroyo Lupine, Bachelor's Button, Black-Eyed Susan, Coreopsis, Indian Blanket and Mission Red Monkey.

      If you have the room go for it, four o'clocks can get pretty unwieldy, although I don't know of their beneficial value. Tansies are great, bright, and fairly compact. They can bring in a good deal of ladybugs which are wonderful.

      3 Replies
      1. re: Novelli

        I bet your garden is pretty. I don't have the extra room unfortunately for as many flowers as you. I've never grown Four O'Clocks or Tansy before, but I've read that Japanese beetles are attracted to and poisoned by the Four O'Clocks. I believe Tansy supposedly wards off some of the bad bugs but can be a nuisance if allowed to set seed, plus it's poisonous to some animals. You saying it attracts ladybugs makes it more appealing though.

        1. re: MrsJonesey

          Honestly, I don't have much room either. I just broadcast the wildflower seeds by hand around the edges of my vegetable beds and trim back when necessary.

          I was not aware of Four O'Clocks providing that kind of benefit.

          I wouldn't exactly say Tansies ward off bad bugs. I just think they perform kind of a trap crop. So bright and yellow they can attract white flies, but better they bother the tansy than your vegetables!

          Ladybugs = no aphids - Ladybugs are voracious eater of aphids and their larva.

          1. re: MrsJonesey

            I've read the same thing about Four O'Clocks, but failed at growing them and gave up; and I've heard the exact same thing about white geraniums but haven't tried it. I've also read in a few places that Tansy is toxic to livestock. Tansy is also reputed to deter Japanese and cucumber beetles and squash bugs - but honestly, I don't know if *anything* actually deters those pests!

            I put sunflowers, cosmos and zinnias in our garden every year to attract bees and other pollinators. (Really, any pollen-bearing flower probably works.) Birds, too - I've been lucky that the birds work on the sunflowers (and hopefully bad bugs) and leave my tomatoes alone. I also let some basil go to seed because it also brings in the bees and other good bugs.

            For some reason, my tomatoes do really well with a nasturtium or a petunia planted in the bed.

            Marigolds go all over the garden; their roots are supposed to give off a substance that kills nematodes in the immediate area in the soil, plus if planted thickly enough, they can mask the smell of something delicious-smelling and tasting that you're growing.

            A neighboring, not very friendly gardener in the community garden used to ask why we had all those flowers planted where we could have put in more vegetables. My husband would go through the "bring in the bees and hide the tasty stuff" routine, and I'd follow up with "and they're purty." This ticked Mr. Friendly off to no end; and that alone was reason enough for me to continue the practice.

        2. I like to plant lemon balm to attract bees, plus it makes a soothing tea.
          I also plant nasturtium for the color, and for salads, as everything is edible.

          1 Reply
          1. re: jayt90

            Lemon balm is quite invasive and prone to spread seeds all over the place. We have seedlings in lots of strange places. This does not stop us from growing it, though, even if we could eradicate it.

            We prefer to use lemon balm with mint or black tea for a more rounded flavor.

          2. I plant calendula, nasturiums,and dianthus

            2 Replies
            1. re: jpr54_1

              At an organic farming conference I went to they recommended planting nasturtiums with summer squashes. It is supposed to help with borers, and of course the flowers are great in salads as jayt90 noted.. I have not tried it yet though

              1. re: joaniebaby

                I lose a lot of winter squash to vine borers. Annoys the heck out of me!! I am trying a three sisters bed this year, though I don't know if that will help. I will hit the garden center for nasturtiums, since I am late for seed starting.

            2. I should have commented earlier. Tansy is a perennial and can grow a massive root system. I would not plant it in the vegetable garden. I have room for a wild border which is suggested in permaculture books to attract beneficial insects. If anything, I want things that will also provide food for birds. Phoebees love to sit on the pea fencing and watch for insects. I did have a wild border but my husband has been too enthusiastic about mowing to make things look neat. I just hadn't thought about it before but I want a patch for things like milkweed, brown-eyed susans, etc. In a garden I toured last year, they chose a different section of lawn to go wild each year. That way every section of the lawn was mowed often enough to keep down bushes.

              I like to plant nasturtiums, calendula (self seeds) and marigolds just for pretty but I understand marigolds should repell squash and cucumber beetles.