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Good plants for beneficial insects

 
gardener
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Hello everyone,

So my mushroom compost is generally going very well, so I am starting to think of other areas where I can improve my garden and I was thinking about planting something to attract beneficial insects.  Deborah Epstein has given me the idea of planting crimson clover for attracting bees, and I was wondering what might help attract predatory insects.  My garden beds have grassy paths about 5’ around them, but on one side is tall field grass.  I was thinking I could plant strip of beneficial insect attracting plants in that field grass area.  Any and all suggestions are welcome.

It would be awesome if I could attract something that likes to devour aphids and squash bugs!!

Eric
 
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Last month I read Great Garden Companions by Sally Jean Cunningham, and she discusses plants to attract beneficial insects to length in the book. It has a nicely done multi-page chart in the back of the book listing the names of plants, growing tips, and what they attract divided into categories such as annual, perennial, herbs, etc. I used this book as one of my guides to order flower seeds a couple days ago that I will be planting in my garden this year along side my usual edible vegetables I like to grow. Some flowers I ordered for the sole purpose of attracting pollinators and predatory insects are:

Yarrow
Lovage
Tansy
Aster
Calendula
Sweet Alyssum
Zinnia
Bee Balm
Borage
Chrysanthemum (not the commercial hybrid varieties)
Daisies
Chamomile

There are lots of bugs that eat aphids and some are lady bugs, ground beetles, soldier beetle, assassin bugs and more. The big-eyed bugs (Geocoris punctipes), damsel bug and scelionid wasps are a few that will prey on squash bugs. One thing that attracts a lot of predatory insects like certain wasps and tachinid flies are plants that have umbel flowers; those super tiny flowers that grow in little round almost umbrella shaped clusters, like queen annes lace or wild carrot. Herbs like dill, fennel, parsley and cilantro make umbels and letting some go to flower in a garden will attract beneficial insects.


 
steward
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While you can search out particular beneficial bugs and then the plants that support them, it's easier to just plant lots of things that support beneficials in general.  If you search the permaculture nurseries for "insectiary" plants it's a good start.  

I like things with small flowers (dill, fennel, alliums, chives) because I've heard they attract predatory wasps.  Flowers in general are good.  There are many bee friendly plants, borage, comfrey, bee balm, etc.  

So my vote is for variety and a focus on perennials.  
 
Eric Hanson
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Thanks guys,

Well, part of the good news is that I have a couple of these that are already growing on their own.  Queen Anne’s Lace grows quite well in my field.  I also have some wild Black Eyed Susan’s nearby and I wouldn’t mind planting some pink coneflowers.  Daisies also grow well by me.  

Actually, maybe I should really tailor to getting some squash bug predators as they do far more damage than aphids.

Big thanks again,

Eric
 
pollinator
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Parsnips and anise hyssop see to get lots o traffic
 
pollinator
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I start a lot of ornamental bedding plants each spring for my little market nursery, and usually use the extras to fill in empty spaces in the gardens, which has helped attract beneficial insects.
Alyssum makes a good ground cover, and pollinators love it, as do the parasitic wasps & ladybugs.
Bumblebees, honeybees, wasps, etc seem to love the marigolds, zinnias, periwinkles, and petunias.
The feathery blooms of celosia make a good hiding place for the smaller beneficials.
The bugs also seem to like it when I stick random herbs around the garden, instead of just in the herb bed.
Hardy hibiscus is a perennial that also sets a lot of seed, so I'm always putting them in random places to cover the ground and provide biomass, but I get a lot of ladybugs on them, and pollinators like the big blooms.
Portulacas make nice ground over that tolerates foot traffic, but I've also found lacewings, dragonflies, and bees tend to like them.

I know a lot of permies tend to avoid the ornamentals because they aren't edible but, for me, they're a valuable resource that I have access to, so I make use of the plants I don't use for the market. Besides being a cheap source of seeds & transplants, most of them are tough, and will bloom for the entire growing season; which birds & bugs seem to like. They take well to frequent pruning for mulch, and many types are eager to reseed; which saves time & money from year to year. Not to mention, they're pretty to look at, which adds to the enjoyment of being out in the garden.
 
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I am also interested in the concept of good plant for beneficial insect. I have just read a mag. article "why natural insect control works better" by Harvey Ussery. The gist being if you attract alot of insects you will get enough predators. So plant flowering and shelter plants in your garden with your crops. I like this idea, I am kind of tired of just growing beans/pea/collard/pepper/ect. Now I am working on a list of plants that I would like grow. I think this thread will be helpful. (first post on this website please forgive any blunders)
 
gardener
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Welcome, Bruce!

Eric, I was just noting that the cilantro that i let go to flower was covered in stingless bees yesterday. I like to leave a few bolt because the bees (and other associates) seem to enjoy them. Basil as well.
 
Bruce Fisher
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thank you Teresa, That is a good idea. I have in the past let some plants bolt for the pollinators to feed, but now with the mind set of attracting all types of insects I think I will let more bolt and flower. This also addresses the next issue I had and that was timing. I wanted to have the first flowers present in the early spring (here late Feb./early March). I will try to let some the cilantro/collards/kale,radishes/arugula bolt, that with the blueberries should be a good start.

 
Mike Haasl
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Broccoli is a great bee lure.  After we harvest the main head and the side shoots, if the copious littler side shoots start flowering, we just let them.  They can handle the frost so I see bees on them till they quit flying.
 
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To my mind, planting something that would attract the predators of aphids and squash bugs would be something that would attract aphids and squash bugs.
 
Bruce Fisher
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I must be getting slower, but I am starting to connect the "dots" here. Steve, I see your mindset and have to agree, that would be a good plan. Now what if We flipped the question? I once bought a vine for the flower, but the caterpillars ate it to the stems and I had tonnes of butterflies that summer and fall ( I liked the butterflies better than the flower). This continued for a couple of years then I started having lots of vines, still had tonnes of butterflies, but caterpillars were scarce.The balance of prey/predator had shifted. "IF" I wanted more caterpillars would I spray an insecticide on the vines before the eggs were laid, OR cut the vines down (before the eggs are laid to starve predators),then let the vines regrow, OR something else??
 
Steve Mendez
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I am probably the slow one here, and certainly don't understand all the ramifications of a keeping an organic garden in balance. I just had trouble understanding how planting something that attracts more aphids and squash bugs to a garden in order to attract the predators of these troublesome insects makes sense.
Unless the bad insects find the lure plants more attractive than the crop you want to protect. Which I think is your point,Bruce.
Reading these forums has provided me with a lot of useful information.
 
Bruce Fisher
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Yes Steve, I am planning to have hopefully an aphid crop on lure plants and these aphids will be a different type than would feed on my peas and beans, These aphid would be the food source to grow a population of predators before peas and beans start setting fruit. The predators would then protect the pea/beans. Sounds kinda like a fantasy plan that could backfire. If I can find the right lure crop I will try it.
 
pollinator
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Almost all herbs, almost anything  that blooms.  Avoid the ones used as insect repellents and you are good mostly.  The next question is what else it does for you?  Does it fix nitrogen?  Does it have market value in your area?  Does it improve your diet?  Not saying the other things are required but if your space is small they should be.
 
Bruce Fisher
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So, I have now read a couple of books, some mag./online articles about beneficial and attracting them to the garden. The authors point out the need to diversity of blooms, size, shape, and time to appeal to many different types of wasp, flies, and other predators. With the plantings either on the border, in rows with crops, or plant intermixed within rows.
  This season I will let the wild winter weeds and grasses bloom for the early predators. I will let some of the greens bolt and flower. I am planting seeds of small and mid-sized annuals for summer bloom.  I am going to grow tithonia for the north border,(just cause I love the butterflies it attracts). My list of plants to try include, marigolds, snapdragons, mint, thyme, dills, coneflowers, mexican heather, letting the wild broomsedge, chicweed, corydalis, geraniums, flowers.
This is all fluid and evolving.
   I am having trouble find info for doing this at latitude 30 degrees. Most of the books/ articles are from Virginia, Maine, Pennsylvania,Oregon, Washington.
So diversity and timing using local plants are my main goal now.  still learnin'
 
Bruce Fisher
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C. Letellier wrote:Almost all herbs, almost anything  that blooms.  Avoid the ones used as insect repellents and you are good mostly.  The next question is what else it does for you?  Does it fix nitrogen?  Does it have market value in your area?  Does it improve your diet?  Not saying the other things are required but if your space is small they should be.


 all good questions that I will have to keep in mind, thanks


 
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