Backyard Bliss | Attracting beneficial bugs to the garden

BIG ON BUGS: Flowers help create an attractive, food-filled space for beneficial bugs. Photos: Hannah Moloney.
BIG ON BUGS: Flowers help create an attractive, food-filled space for beneficial bugs. Photos: Hannah Moloney.

We consider having a good bug mix on hand really useful (essential even) in creating a healthy, pest-free garden.

It's simply a seed mix of colourful flowers, but the key function is to attract certain insects (often referred to as beneficials) that help pollinate crops and control unwanted insects and pests.

We like to make our own seed mixes from flowers in our garden, while they vary depending on seasons and availability, some of our stalwart and rather beautiful ingredients inlcude, sweet Alice, calendula and my long-time favourite plant nasturtium.

Here's a bit about each plant:

Sweet Alice

Sweet Alice (lobularia maritima). Photos: Hannah Moloney.

Sweet Alice (lobularia maritima). Photos: Hannah Moloney.

Sweet Alice (lobularia maritima) has masses of tiny white and/or purple flowers that attract hoverflies and parasitic mini-wasps.

This little bush grows prolifically, so much so that we often 'weed' it out and use it as mulch to protect naked soils. In doing so it drops its seeds and grows where we've thrown it down.

When the bush is dry, we also put some of it in a paper bag and shake it around vigorously - this separates the seeds from their pods so we can easily harvest them.

Calendula

Calendula (calendula officinalis). Photos: Hannah Moloney.

Calendula (calendula officinalis). Photos: Hannah Moloney.

The second plant we use quite a lot is calendula (calendula officinalis).

We use it as a quick growing cover crop to help stabilise and beautify some of our many slopes and attract the good guys into our landscape.

Ladybirds (and bees) love hanging out on these little beauties.

Nasturtiums

Nasturtiums (tropaeolum). Photos: Hannah Moloney.

Nasturtiums (tropaeolum). Photos: Hannah Moloney.

Finally, we use nasturtiums (tropaeolum) in our bug mix, which everything seems to love. They're a fantastic ground cover for orchards or for rambling down slopes.

We use their young seed pods to make 'poor man capers', and the rest fall on the ground and are harvested for our bug mix.

All three of these plants will grow prolifically and while they will self-seed and become very abundant in your garden, they won't become invasive.

This means you can happily grow them in both your annual and perennial crops without a problem.

Flowers like borage, native pelagonium and sunflowers, also add to creating an attractive, food-filled space for beneficial bugs.

  • Hannah Moloney and Anton Vikstrom are the founders of Good Life Permaculture, a landscape design and education enterprise regenerating land and lifestyles.