Natural pesticides and soil enrichment for amazing veggies

Q: Which flowers can I plant in my veggie garden that will act as a natural pesticide and what can I do to enrich the soil?

Plants that act naturally as insect repellents are a great, sustainable way to rid your garden of unwanted pests. Working with nature to create a strong ecosystem within your garden is always the best choice. There are a variety of insect-repelling-plants to choose from that are effective, in most cases, because they have a strong scent that is unattractive to pests. There are also several earth-friendly measures you can take to improve the quality of your soil, which will ensure a stronger, healthier crop.

Here are eight great ways to improve your garden’s ecosystem and grow better plants:

Marigolds: Marigolds and other members of the chrysanthemum family are commonly used, gently discouraging plant-eating insects from gardens, such as whiteflies. They also repel many weeds and suppress nematodes because their roots secrete a substance that repels them.

: Nasturtiums can serve as a type of sacrificial plant because they lure aphids away from your precious vegetables. Nasturtiums are often paired with beans, squash, pumpkins, cabbage and cucumbers.

White geraniums: Planting white geraniums near your vegetable garden can draw Japanese beetles away from your crops. It is recommended that geraniums be planted 10- to 20-feet away from your vegetables. The beetles will eat at the geraniums, become poisoned and die.

Alliums: Onions and other alliums planted throughout your garden can deter slugs, prevent fungal infections and prevent root maggots from travelling between plants. Simply grow a row of onions (or other alliums) near weak plants or plants of concern.

: Generally, fragrant herb plants like basil, oregano, mint, thyme and chives will confuse pests and deter them from eating your crops. Grow sweet basil among vegetables to repel aphids, mites, whitefly and mosquitoes. As an added bonus, basil also acts as a fungicide.

Plants that improve soil

Legumes: Legumes such as alfalfa, clover, peas, beans, lentils and soy help to add nitrogen to your soil. Essentially, they are one of the only types of plants that can convert unusable nitrogen from the atmosphere into nitrogen that plants can use. All plants use nitrogen for a variety of reasons, most notably to create protein and become strong.

Comfrey and other tap roots
: plants with a deep tap root draw in nutrients from within the subsoil. These otherwise un-accessed nutrients are collected by the tap root, which makes it an excellent compost builder. Comfrey is well known for its contribution to compost.

Nettle leaves: Though most consider them to be a pesky weed, the leaves of a nettle are great for making compost tea. Nicknamed “stinging nettle” for the burning sensation produced when coming in contact with skin, nettle has in fact been used for centuries as a diverse herbal remedy. Nettle leaves have high levels of protein, calcium, phosphorus, iron, magnesium, and beta-carotene. It also contains high quantities of vitamins A, C, D, and B complex. Needless to say, it is great for soil composition. Just wear gloves and protect your arms and legs when you handle nettle!