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Kitchen Gardening

Pest-Fighting Flowers

Growing flowers alongside your veggies can greatly help in the fight against pests.

  • Photo/Illustration: Wikipedia Commons
  • Borage
    Photo/Illustration: Wikipedia Commons
  • Chrysanthemum
    Photo/Illustration: Wikipedia Commons
  • Dahlia
    Photo/Illustration: Wikipedia Commons
  • Four O'Clocks
    Photo/Illustration: Wikipedia Commons
  • Lavender
    Photo/Illustration: Wikipedia Commons
  • The pest-fighting champion, the marigold.
    Photo/Illustration: Muhammad Mahdi Karim, Wikipedia Commons
  • Nasturtium
    Photo/Illustration: Wikipedia Commons
  • Petunias
    Photo/Illustration: Wikipedia Commons
  • The big daddy of them all, the sunflower.
    Photo/Illustration: Wikipedia Commons

One of the great things about vegetable gardening is that at some point or stage it can take care of itself. No, I don’t mean abandoning your garden chores (sorry). One of the ways you can get “help” is to select plants, particularly flowers, for your garden that will help control insect pests.

Certain flowers contain properties that either invite beneficial insects or repel harmful insects. Beneficial insects prey on pests that cause damage in the garden; ladybugs and praying mantises are good examples.

Using flowers for pest control not only cuts down on your workload, but it also reduces the amount of pesticides that you have to resort to. Fewer pesticides means more good bugs, which in turn means help in controlling bad bugs.

That said, what works in my veggie garden may not work in yours. Every garden has a different growing climate, soil type, and of course, pests. You will have to experiment to find out what works best for your situation. Choosing flowers and other plants that are native to your area will help, as the beneficial insects will already know what to look for.

Without further ado, here’s an incomplete, yet helpful list of your “fighting flowers”.

Although it is an herb, borage can deter hornworms and cabbage worms, and is believed to help almost any plant increase its resistance to disease and pests.

Chrysanthemums have large flower heads in white, yellow or pink, and they can be quite helpful with pests in the garden. Some varieties have been made into a tea for use as a pesticide to kill root nematodes and repel Japanese beetles.

Dahlias grow flowers with a variety of shapes and colors, making them a popular choice for flower gardeners. They’re said to also repel nematodes, making them both beautiful and useful in your vegetable garden.

Four O’Clocks
Four O’Clock flowers will attract and kill Japanese beetles, making them an excellent bait flower to place near your vegetable gardens. These flowers are also poisonous to pets and people too however, so take care to choose safe locations if you choose to plant these.

Lavender is an excellent general pest repellent flower to use in your garden. It repels both fleas and moths, and it can help protect other plants near it from whiteflies.

The marigold is probably the most well known plant for repelling insects. French marigolds repel whiteflies and kill bad nematodes. Mexican marigolds are said to “bug” many destructive insects. Marigold flowers come in scented and unscented varieties, with the scented ones are best used for pest deterrents. And while this plant drives away many bad bugs, it also attracts spider mites and snails.

Nasturtiums planted near tomatoes and cucumbers can fight off aphids, whiteflies, squash bugs, and cucumber beetles. The flowers, especially the yellow blooming varieties, act as a trap for aphids.

Petunias can repel asparagus beetles, leafhoppers, aphids, tomato hornworms, and others.

Sunflowers might be the largest flower you have in your garden, and what a better beacon to say “come on over” to beneficial pollinators. I’ve heard that they can draw aphids away from other plants.

If you’ve had good luck with any others, chime in.

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