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Plant Diversity & Natural Pest Solutions for Garden Health

Insectary flowering plants attract, feed, and provide habitat for predator insects that aid in biological pest control in the garden, such as birds, lizards, ladybugs, lacewings, etc. Yarrow, sunflower, cilantro, onion, dill, and radishes are considered some of the top insectary plants used by organic gardeners worldwide. They are not only great at attracting predatory hoverflies and lacewings, but they are also edible!

Start by identifying the insects you do not want in your garden and target them appropriately. For example, sunflowers are attractive to beneficial mites that are great at wreaking havoc on thrips, while yarrow is a favorite for hoverflies, parasitic wasps, and ladybugs, all primary predators for aphids and whiteflies.

Then, take a look at the duration of the flowering time per plant species and the soil conditions in which the plants will grow; this will help you choose botanicals that can coexist with your garden plants and that will provide protection when your crops need it most (such as early in their development, and later when they fruiting). Finally, strategically plant insectary sections that bloom continually throughout the growing season to effectively support targeted natural enemies.


Many people look to natural pest control applications—such as horticultural oils, insecticidal soaps, and diatomaceous earth (available at American Farm and Larder)—to help manage garden pests, but such solutions have their drawbacks. These kinds of applications must be applied thoroughly to all surfaces of the affected plants while the pests are present, so they cannot be used preventatively. Also, these products are not species specific; they can harm beneficial insects along with the pests, so it’s important to only use them when absolutely necessary.

Neem oil, however, can be used as a preventative, since it inhibits insects from eating more once they ingest the oil, but the bugs will continue to live on the plant for a few days before they die.

For larger insect infestations, I recommend a DIY garlic-mint insect spray that utilizes mint, cayenne pepper, garlic, and organic liquid castille soap for an inexpensive and effective solution to unwanted garden insects.


DIY Garlic-Mint Garden Insect Spray

An all-natural homemade garden bug spray for vegetable and flower gardens that is quick to make and easy to use - and really works!

Yield: 12 cups


  • Food Processor

  • Large Stockpot

  • Strainer

  • Spray Bottles


  • 2 whole HEADS garlic, cloves separated and peeled

  • 3 cups mint leaves and stems, too

  • 2 teaspoons dry cayenne pepper

  • 12 cups water

  • 2 small squirts of biodegradable dishwashing liquid


  • Add the garlic and mint to a food processor and pulse for a few seconds.

  • Transfer mixture to a large pot and add the cayenne and 12 cups of water.

  • Bring to a boil; remove from heat and let sit overnight.

  • Strain into a couple spray bottles (or gallon garden sprayer) and add the two small squirts of dish soap.

  • To Use:

  • Shake well before each use.

  • Spray all the leaves on affected plants, including the undersides – preferably on a cloudy day so as not to burn the plants.

  • Wait a few days to see the affect and then apply more if needed (many times I’ve only needed to do one application)

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