Including plants around your vegetable garden that are beneficial to your vegies.
In my feature garden ‘Garden for life’ at the 2015 Royal Adelaide Show I have designed five different vegetable beds which are surrounded by herbs and flowers. These surrounding plants are not just chosen because they look pretty. They have a specific function – to attract beneficial insects.
Attracting Beneficial Insects
In particular, there are two distinct flower types – daisies and umbels. Both of these flower types are made up of clusters of many tiny, individual flowers, tightly bound individuals in daisies, and held more loosely and open in the umbels. Although these two types look different, they have one thing in common – lots of pollen and nectar, which are a magnet for insects! Including these two types of flowers in and around your vegetable garden will attract beneficial insects and pollinators to your patch, which in turn deal with most insect pest problems and also help with increased harvests through pollination. Daisy flowers attract larger insect pollinators such as bees, whereas umbels are great landing pads for smaller insects like small native bees, and pest controlling predators like lacewings, hover flies and parasitic wasps.
Flowering for all Seasons
When choosing daisies and umbels it is important to have plants that will carry the flowering season from early spring, right through into autumn and winter. For example be sure to include early flowering daisies such as marguerite daisies and native everlastings like paper daisies. Mid-season daisies that flower from spring into summer include calendula, chamomiles, feverfew, seaside daisy, sunflowers, yarrow and natives like Brachyscome. For late season daisies plant aster like aster, zinnias and marigolds.
Umbel flowers can look like globes as the alliums (chives, spring onions and garlic) do, or flat and open like in Queen Anne’s lace. Plants which have flat umbel flowers include coriander, flat leaf parsley, fennel, dill and angelica, all of which are members of the carrot family and highly attractive to beneficial insects. Even allowing the odd carrot to go to seed will also attract the good guys.
Whether you get to see the display garden or not, be sure to include daisies and umbels around your vegie patch. Other flowering herbs such as lavender, rosemary, sage and thyme will also help attract beneficial insects.
For more information check out this segment I filmed on Gardening Australia last year titled ‘Enticing the Insects’.