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Insectary plantings

By Lynn Byczynski

Beneficial insects need food and shelter if they are to control pests of vegetable, flower, or herb crops. An insectary planting of flowering plants will greatly increase the likelihood that predators and parasitoids will hang around and help with pest management. An insectary planting can be reserved entirely for beneficials, or it can be small, unharvested areas of valuable crops such as flowers and herbs. Here are some of the plants that can be used:

Cover crops. Many plants grown to improve soil fertility and tilth are also attractive to beneficial insects when they are allowed to flower. Buckwheat is one of the best, especially because it flowers over a long period. Other cover crops that provide food and shelter for beneficials include the clovers, hairy vetch, cowpeas, and alfalfa. Growing cover crops in numerous small sections throughout a field keeps the beneficials close to the cash crops.

Grasses and grains. Often grown in strips among cash crops, grasses and grains provide refuge for ground beetles and spiders and a shady place to lay eggs for other beneficial species.

Flowers and herbs. Several families of flowers are particularly attractive to beneficials. The Apiaceae family has umbels of tiny flowers that are a good source of nectar. It includes angelica, Ammi majus, anise, carraway, carrot, cilantro, dill, fennel, parsley, Queen Anne’s lace, tansy, and yarrow. The Asteraceae family provides abundant and easily accessible pollen. Many cut flowers are in this family, including sunflowers, blanket flower, coneflower, cosmos, and goldenrod.

Vegetables. Mustard-family vegetables, including many Asian greens, broccoli, cabbage, kale, mustard, and turnips, can be left to flower for beneficials.

Trees and shrubs. Permanent hedgerows provide refuge for many types of beneficials and will be especially attractive if they include black locust, elderberry, euonymus, and Prunus species.

A helpful resource is the publication Practical Guidelines for Establishing, Maintaining, and Assessing the Usefulness of Insectary Plantings On Your Farm..

Lynn Byczynski is the editor of Growing for Market and the publisher of The Hoophouse Handbook.

Articles by

the author:
Lynn Byczynski was growing organic vegetables and cut flowers for market when she decided to create a magazine that would help market gardeners nationwide share experiences and information. Her first issue of Growing for Market appeared in January 1992 and it has been published continuously since then. GFM is renowned in the market gardening world for realistic articles that give growers practical, how-to information about growing and selling produce and flowers. Lynn is now partnering with Johnny's to provide similarly useful information for the website and other publications.

Lynn, her husband Dan Nagengast, and their two children have grown vegetables and cut flowers since 1988, selling through a CSA, at farmers markets, to chefs, grocery stores, and florists. They currently grow cut flowers and hoophouse tomatoes on about 2 acres of their 20-acre farm near Lawrence, Kansas.

Lynn is also the author of several books about market farming:
The Flower Farmer: An Organic Grower's Guide to Raising and Selling Cut Flowers; The Hoophouse Handbook; Market Farming Success

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