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Bee the Change - 10 Bee Friendly Companion plants that deter pests

While you are  planting a veggie garden or a flower garden, plan to plant companion plants that go to work.  Some deter pests, some attract Bees and some do both.  Here is our favorite list.  Tuck these plants in everywhere or do like we do and make a strip of  area by your garden  or around your garden a flower delight.  The bees will love you and the pests will stay away!  Ours is perennial with annuals that self sow and comes back year after year.

A Hard working Flower border
 Attracts Bees and Beneficial Insects

1.  Bee Balm Monarda.  This plant helps tomatoes taste better so plant nearby.  Bees absolutely love it and it is a beautiful showy plant all season.  It can be invasive and it is tall perennial that comes back so plant it somewhere that it can stay for a while and not be in the way.

2.  Borage.   Another companion plant for tomatoes, squash, strawberries and most plants. It will deters tomato hornworms and cabbage worms and is one  of the best bee and wasp attracting plants. It scavenges minerals and the leaves are rich in and  vitamin C  calcium, potassium and mineral salts.  Be sure to till this back in!  Some say it improves strawberry flavor but it does self sow so pick where you want it... it reseeds year after year.  You can eat the blossoms.  BEEs love the Borage flowers!

3.  Chamomile (German) This is an annual and it improves flavor of cabbages, cucumbers and onions. Host to hoverflies and wasps. Accumulates calcium, potassium and sulfur, later returning them to the soil. Increases oil production from herbs. Leave some flowers unpicked and   German chamomile will reseed itself. Roman chamomile is a low growing perennial that will tolerate almost any soil conditions. Both like full sun. Growing chamomile of any type is considered a tonic for anything you grow in the garden.

4.  Echinacea  This is a backbone planting for us. Once it finds a place it likes it will grow for years.  The roots are healing and the flowers are a magnet for bees and hummingbirds.  Find heirloom versions of this that you know self seed.  Then plant the entire seed head   This perennial will feed your bees and provide beauty for years.  You can even mow it at the end of a year so it is a mainstay in our wildflower  meadow.

5.  Lavender is amazing.   It repels fleas and moths. Long flowering perennial lavender nourishes many nectar feeding and beneficial insects and protects nearby plants from insects such as whitefly, and when planted near fruit trees can deter codling moth. Use dried sprigs of lavender in your house or closets to deter moths.  You can even hang them in your fruit trees.   Bees and hummingbirds love lavender.  You have to put it in a place where its feet don't get to wet.. it likes to dry out between watering.

6.  Morning Glory.  They attract hoverflies which eat aphids AND bees love it.  if you want a fast growing annual vine to cover something up morning glory will do it.  We have it wild on all our fences.

7.  Petunia repel asparagus beetle, leafhoppers, certain aphids, tomato worms, Mexican bean beetles and general garden pests. A good companion to tomatoes, and you can let this annual self seed everywhere. The leaves can be used in a tea to make a potent bug spray.  The plants you get at nurseries are hybrid (wont resow) so be sure to get packages of heirloom seeds and drop them in everywhere.    Bees love the purple and pink ones!

8.  Rosemary.   It is a companion  plant to cabbage, beans, carrots and sage. Deters cabbage moths, bean beetles, and carrot flies. Use cuttings to place by the crowns of carrots for carrot rot.  Rosemary should be planted in a place it can stay for a long time since it is perennial.  Bees absolutely love it.  We have it trimmed into a hedge on one side of our herb garden gate.  It is evergreen so stay lovely.

Sunflowers come in all sizes and colors
9.  Sunflowers.   These are our passion and we have collected dozens of varieties that will self sow year after year.     Plant sunflowers here and there in the garden.  Sunflowers attract hummingbirds which eat whiteflies and Ants herd aphids onto them.   This plant makes great seedheads for birds (and people) when it is done at the end of the year and is simply beautiful.  Smaller Birds will land on them along the way while they are growing and eat the ants and aphids... a win win for all.

10.  Zinnia attract bees and hummingbirds which eat whiteflies. Alternately the pastel varieties of zinnias can be used as a trap crop for Japanese beetles. All zinnias attract bees and other insect pollinators.

See our other list of favorite companions that bees like including Yarrow here.

BONUS:   Soapwort, Bachelor Buttons, Flax, Sweet Peas  All self sow if you get heritage versions and provide additional beautiful long lasting flowers that are bee friendly.  Soapwort is early so it is a welcome meal for bees.    None of these  are invasive so we just let them sprout wherever.

Photo credit : Craig Rippens, Marin Farmers Market


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