We have ‘good bug mix’ growing around our fruit trees. Hopefully it will be extended into other areas of the garden and left to grow and self seed. Organic and biodynamic gardening aims to treat the whole garden (or property) as a living, thriving ecosystem and working within that context. This means enhancing – or introducing – natural biological controls already present in natural and garden ecosystems.
Good bug mixes or permaculture mixes or similarly named seed mixes do this by providing a nectar source for beneficial, pest-controlling insects. Specific flowers and herbs have been proven to improve the natural balance and reduce pest outbreaks. Annual and perennial flowers including red clover, alyssum, cosmos, marigolds, Queen Anne’s Lace, buckwheat, lucerne, dill, caraway, coriander and phacelia, gypsophila are some that flower much of the year to provide food and habitat for wild and introduced beneficial insects, such as predatory mites and tiny micro wasps, ladybirds, lacewings, hoverflies, tachnid flies and predatory beetles. (Some of these insects eat aphids, or prey on caterpillar eggs, etc)
Beneficial insects or ‘good bugs’ are generally small with correspondingly small mouthparts, so they are only able to feed on particular flowers with suitable attributes. By providing a plentiful food supply, hopefully the ‘good bugs’ will set up home in your garden and raise their families.
Plant in areas that can go a little wild, such as garden edges or along fence lines. We also plant under our fruit trees to form a living mulch.It is always good to have parts of your garden that are a little wild or messy to provide habitat and encourage birds as well.
Autumn: Sow seed into a well prepared seed bed – well dug, compost and lime inciorporated and then forked in and raked so there is a fine tilth to the soil (not big clods of dirt) to give good contact and cover for the small seeds. Scatter seeds about and rake over and firm, either with back of a rake or your feet. Water in and keep moist until the seeds germinate.
Winter: You can begin to weed if you can tell which is weed and which isn’t though it’s easier to tell in spring and sumer. Some established stands could get a trim now.
Spring: Sow another batch elsewhere in the garden, as per autumn. Make sure the soil is kept moist until the seeds germinate and water well for the first season until the plants are established.
Summer: Allow all the flowers to set seed, you could collect some for later sowing or allow them to scatter naturally. Trim the plants back a bit if they get too lanky.
Generally: The plants may need a trim back at certain times of the year and resowing, since after a couple of seasons, some plants begin to dominate others out of the mix totally. It pays to sow at different times of the year for this reason as well.
Eating: The insects love it! But it’s also an instant cottage garden.