Live and Let Live – Companion Planting

Bee

I try not to kill anything. I don’t swot flies, I try to not provide ants with ideal nesting sites, and with 4 cats on site, mice don’t tend to make themselves known. I am with Chris Packham on this one – live and let live. Which means that things like aphids can become a real problem. I don’t like to use the word pest, because I suppose in some cases, one person’s pest is another beast’s fodder. Or something.

I suppose the answer to successfully growing vegetables and wildlife planting without using standard pest control is to implement and encourage natural predators. Ok, so this is me passing the buck and getting other wildlife to do my dirty work, but I think it’s the lesser of two evils. It also means that I can put more time into productive vegetable growing and gardening!

I’m a release site for Bedfordshire Wildlife Rescue’s rehabilitated hedgehogs, so naturally the Smallest Smallholding is a hedgehog friendly environment. And guess what – I don’t have a problem with slugs or snails. However, the aphids came out in earnest earlier this month, sucking away on the ivy and Paul’s Himalayan Musk rose, steadily making their way to the greenhouse. Well, in fact, they were in the (unheated) greenhouse until the hard frosts and snow came back. They’d sucked the life out of my chives. So this year I have to really look at ways to discourage them and the other munchy munchers both here at the Smallest Smallholding and down on the allotment.

Veg Patch

A solution is to undertake some companion planting to deter unwanted beasties – things like marigolds and basil next to the tomatoes, planting onions and carrots together, bay leaves next to the beans (get away Mr Weevil!) and any alliums near the fruit trees. We also have dill growing here and there, a favourite for the aphid-eating machines that are hoverflies.

Another solution is to wildlife garden to enourage the natural predators such as hedgehogs, hoverflies, ladybirds and lacewings. Supplying them with shelter spots and habitats, as well as food is vital. At the moment we have buddleia coming through – the equivalent of an open bar to a butterfly – lavender and rosemary, cosmos to be planted (flowered through to Novemeber last year), and I imagine a lot of the attractive annuals such the borage, cornflowers and verbena bonariensis will have reseeded themselves this year. But I definitely need to do more.

The birds help – sparrows in particular love to pick the aphids off the orange blossom. And of course the hens are also a great help in this respect too. They go fly catching on warm afternoons, cluck and shriek with delight when they unearth grubs, and love to pick at the really small slugs. Last year I let them have the run of the veg plots, and apart from decimating my lettuces (my mistake for uncovering them) and the odd nip at a carrot top, everything was left in place.

The only solution I haven’t managed to find yet, is how to deter Mr Moth from my damson and plum trees. Not sure if alliums deter moths, and I certainly don’t want to put up any of those indiscriminate sticky traps either.

Comments

  1. Wow – fantastic blog – you are so involved with EVERYTHING! And your knowledge is massive too. Not too keen on that bloody (oops) swear box though!

    Well done! Will keep visiting

    Cat x

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