by Kathy Hummel, Coles County Mater Gardener
A sad joke: "Help! I've fallen into a crack in my yard!"
Dianne Noland, Moderator on the WILL-TV Midwest Gardeners, mentioned an idea for these droughty times: Put dishpans in your sinks to catch the greywater from handwashing, dish rinsing, etc. to use on your gasping plants. We keep a bucket nearby to empty the pans to carry out to the plants. You will be amazed how many gallons per day accumulate.
Use Plants for Pest Control
Certain plants 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 mantis are good examples of beneficials.
Using plants for pest control not only cuts down on your workload, but it also reduces the amount of insecticides that you use in your garden. And fewer insecticides means more good bugs, which in turn means help in controlling bad bugs.
Here are of some favorite pest control plants:
Artemisia - This plant produces a strong antiseptic that repels most insects. Planted in drifts it can also deter small animals. The 'Powis Castle' variety grows in lovely basketball-sized blue-gray mounds. Use in flower borders and not in vegetable gardens because it produces a botanical poison.
The oils in basil are said to repel thrips, flies and mosquitoes. Plant basil along side tomatoes for larger, tastier tomatoes. However, basil and rue should not be planted together. Unfortunately, Japanese beetles and katydids find basil tasty.
Bee Balm - attracts bees to your garden. It is another plant that you can grow with your tomatoes.
Borage - This plant is a real workhorse in the garden. It repels tomato hornworms and cabbage worms and attracts beneficial bees and wasps. Borage also adds trace elements to the soil. This is an annual, but readily comes back each year from seed.
Catnip - This plant repels just about everything, except for cats! Use it to keep away flea beetles, aphids, Japanese beetles, squash bugs, ants, and weevils. If ants sometimes invade your kitchen, use sachets of dried catnip to deter them. The variety called 'Six Hills Giant' has a proliferation of sky blue blooms.
Chives are not only flavorful but their grassy foliage and globular flower heads also add interest to the garden. You can plant chives to repel Japanese beetles and carrot rust flies. It has also been said that chives will help prevent scab when planted among apple trees.
Chrysanthemums - An insecticide called called pyrethrum comes from chrysanthemums. You can find it in any garden shop. This all-natural pesticide can help control things like roaches, ticks, silverfish, lice, fleas, bedbugs, and ants. In the garden white flowering chrysanthemums are said to drive away Japanese beetles and C. coccineum, commonly known as Painted Daisy, kills root nematodes.
Dahlias repel nematodes and the blooms are great for adding bold splashes of color to flower borders and fresh arrangements.
Dill is best planted with cucumbers and onions. During the cool season, plant it with lettuce. Dill attracts hoverflies and predatory wasps (good guys), and swallowtail butterfly caterpillars use its foliage as food. Tomato hornworms are also attracted to dill, so if you plant it at a distance, you can help draw these destructive insects away from your tomatoes. Dill repels aphids and spider mites. Try sprinkling dill leaves on your squash plant to repel squash bugs. But be forewarned: Dill re-seeds with a vengeance and takes over the garden in a hurry, so you need to cut the seed heads before they ripen.
Four o'Clocks - This plant is a favorite food for Japanese beetles. However, because of its poisonous foliage rarely do they get to finish their meal. It is important to note that Four o'Clocks are also poisonous to people and animals, so avoid planting it if you have small children or pets.
Garlic - In addition to its great taste and health benefits, garlic planted near roses repels aphids. It also deters codling moths, Japanese beetles, root maggots, snails, and carrot root fly.
Hyssop is great for attracting honeybees to the garden.
Lavender is a favorite among many beneficial insects; it also repels fleas and moths. In this area, however, a harsh winter can wipe it out.
The marigold is probably the most well known plant for repelling insects. French marigolds repel whiteflies and kill harmful nematodes. Mexican marigolds are said to offend a host of destructive insects and wild rabbits as well. While this plant drives away many bad bugs, it also attracts spider mites and snails.
Planting nasturtiums with tomatoes and cucumbers is a way to fight off wooly aphids, whiteflies, squash bugs, and cucumber beetles. The flowers, especially the yellow blooming varieties, act as a trap for aphids.
Petunias repel asparagus beetles, leafhoppers, a range of aphids, tomato worms, and a good many other pests.
Use sunflowers as a way to draw aphids away from other plants. Ants move their colonies on to sunflowers. The sunflowers are tough enough that they suffer no damage. However, if you have friendly neighborhood deer, they find sunflower sprouts quite tasty.