Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Pacific Northwest
June, 2001
Regional Report

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Nasturtiums are irresistible to aphids and serve as great trap crops for them. Border your garden with these beauties and you'll have fewer pests elsewhere.

Trapping the Bugs

In the world of pest control there are many non-spraying ways to keep pests at bay. One I've experimented with is growing trap crops. Trap crops are plants that certain pests really like. When you plant them in the garden, all the pests go to the trap crop, where you can control them more efficiently, and leave your other plants alone.

Using Trap Crops

There's some controversy surrounding the use of trap crops, however. Some plants really do attract pesky aphids and beetles, but the question is, do they attract pests away from other plants in your garden, or do they attract pests to your garden from some distant garden? I'd hate to think I was attracting a population of Mexican bean beetles from a neighboring garden with my bed of marigolds.

Nasturtiums as a Trap Crop

Nasturtiums attract aphids by the score. I've always planted them as a sacrificial crop, pinching off and destroying stems as they become infested. If aphids are a problem in your garden, try my nasturtium trap crop method. Or plant a few sunflowers here and there. Unlike the nasturtiums, whose infested leaves have to be pinched off, sunflowers can just be left alone to grow. They are so tough that the aphids cause little damage, and they still produce nice seed heads for our birds to enjoy.

Buckwheat for Deer Control

If you're plagued with deer like I am, consider planting buckwheat as a trap crop for Bambi and friends. A neighbor tells me that deer go straight for the stands of buckwheat in her garden, leaving her perennial flowers alone. It's worth a try.

Buckwheat also has a number of other worthy attributes. It's an excellent summer cover crop, growing dense enough to crowd out weeds, it attracts droves of bees, and it has a shallow root system, making it easy to till into the soil at the end of the season. It does, however, take over a garden if allowed to set seed. The trick to growing buckwheat is to allow it to flower long enough for the bees to collect pollen, but cut it down before it sets seed. I'll let you know how useful it proves for deer control.

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