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Insect-Deterrent Plants for the Vegetable Garden

Asters
Aster will deter most insect pests in the garden. These are New England asters, also called the Michaelmas daisy

Some plants will deter insects in the vegetable garden. This is one form of companion planting. Companion planting–growing plants singly or together–to repel insects, fight disease, or enhance the growth of another plant is a technique that many gardeners have used for generations. Some companion plants have been scientifically proven to deter insects; some companion planting combinations are anecdotal or attributed to “garden wisdom.”

Repelling insects by creating effective crop combinations uses plants’ natural fragrances, oils, compounds, and colors to chase pests away. For example, some aromatic compounds may mask the scent of companion plants: the aroma of garlic will chase away bean beetles and potato bugs. And the color of some plants will confuse some insect pests and send them on their way before they can do any harm.

One way to get started with companion planting is to draw on the science and wisdom of gardeners. Try some of these combinations and draw your own conclusions based on your observations and planting successes. Keep a record of what works and let others know.

The companion plantings in this chart are aimed at deterring pests from the garden. Note that there are also companion plantings that will attract beneficial insects to your garden.

Plant Insects and Pests Deterred Plant Near
Asters Most insects Sunflower, plant around the garden
Basil Flies and mosquitoes Tomato; avoid planting near rue
Borage Tomato worn, cabbage worms Tomato, cabbage family crops, strawberry
Calendula Asparagus beetles, tomato hornworms, most insects All vegetables and herbs
Catnip Flea beetles, spittlebugs, ants, Japanese beetles, weevils All vegetables
Celery White cabbage butterfly Leek, tomato, cabbage, cauliflower, bush bean
Chrysanthemum Most insects, nematodes, spider mites Tomato; avoid planting near lettuce
Dead Nettle Potato bugs Potato
Eggplant Colorado potato beetle Green bean, lettuce
Flax (Linnum usitatissimum) Potato bugs Potato, carrot
Garlic Japanese beetle, aphids, spider mites, other insects, and blight Tomato, eggplant, cabbage family plants; avoid planting near peas, beans, and other legumes
Geranium Cabbageworms, corn earworms, Japanese beetles, most insects Interplant with vegetables, especially cabbage
Horseradish Potato bug Potato, horseradish needs a permanent home
Henbit Most insects  
Hyssop Cabbage moth Cabbage family, orchards, grapevines; avoid planting near radishes
Marigold Nearly all insects including Mexican bean beetles and nematodes Potato, tomato, pepper, eggplant, roses
Mint Cabbage moth and ants Cabbage, tomato
Mole plant(Euphorbia lathyrus) Moles, gophers, mice Space around the garden every 5 feet as a barrier
Nasturtium Aphids, squash bugs, striped pumpkin beetles, whiteflies Beans, cabbage family plants, cucumber
Onion family Most pests, Colorado potato beetles, carrot rust flies, spider mites Most vegetables except peas, beans, sage
Petunia Bean pests, Mexican bean beetles, potato bugs, squash bugs Beans, squash, potato
Pot Marigold Asparagus beetles, tomato worms, general garden pests Asparagus, tomato, most vegetables
Peppermint White cabbage butterfly Cabbage
Radish Cucumber beetles, squash borers Beans, carrot, cucumber, kohlrabi, parsnip, onion, squash
Rosemary Cabbage moth, bean beetle, carrot fly Beans, cabbage family plants, carrot
Rue Japanese beetle Avoid skin contact; do not plant near cabbage family plants
Sage Cabbage moth, carrot fly Plant with perennial vegetables; avoid planting with cucumbers and rue
Salsify Carrot fly Carrot family plants
Southernwood(Artemisia abrotanum) Cabbage moth, black aphids Cabbage family plants or make a southernwood-water solution to spray cabbage
Summer Savory Bean beetles Beans, onion
Tansy Flying insects, Japanese beetles, striped cucumber beetles, squash bugs, ants Squash, potato; avoid planting near collard
Thyme Cabbage worm Eggplant, cabbage, potato, tomato, almost all vegetables, and herbs
Tomato Asparagus beetle Asparagus, dill, borage
Wormwood(Artemisia absinthium) Carrot fly, white cabbage butterfly, black flea beetle Do not plant wormwood in the vegetable garden, but leaves used to make a spray will deter insects.

 

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26 Comments

    • Squash bugs may be deterred by companion plants with strong oils or odors–garlic is one possible deterrent. Squash bugs can be controlled by exclusion–covering the crop with row covers, hand-picking, garlic spray, insecticidal soap, and neem oil.

  1. Finding ants on a lot of leaves of various plants in garden, I believe they are eating leaves.I have already put ladybugs in garden, what else can be done ?

    • Ants often climb up into plants when they area attracted to insect excrement (called honeydew because of sugars). If the leaves feel sticky–that is honeydew; use a strong stream of water to clean leaves and wash away any insects–aphids, whiteflies and others. Ants will protect aphids from predators so that they can harvest the honeydew. Here is a link to an article on ant control: https://harvesttotable.com/tag/ants/

    • Hi Rebecca. Great to hear from you. It’s a fitful Spring in the Sonoma Valley this year–cool then warm then cool. Hope all is well and Spring has come to your garden.

  2. Here is an insect deterrent plant I discovered by accident: cilantro/coriander deters squash bugs. I have a patch in my garden that has grown and reseeded cilantro for years. last year I planted my acorn and yellow squash next to this patch. as long as the plants were growing/flowering I saw not one squash bug. as soon as they seeded and dried out I had to start fighting those nasty stinky bugs.

    • The adult squash vine borer is a narrow winged moth with a 1-2 inch wingspan; eggs are brown, flat, oval and are laid singly on the stems near the base of the plant. To control squash borers you can: (1) exclude the moth from laying eggs by placing row covers over the plants–this can exclude pollinators so you would either have to grow parthenocarpic varieties which do not need pollinator or hand pollinate the flower; (2) search for and destroy the eggs or wipe the stems often to remove the eggs; (3) spray the stems .with insecticidal soap twice a week.

  3. I have been thinking of planting more flowers around my raised garden to attract more pollinating insects. Are there more flower plants that are beneficial to a vegetable garden? Or are there any to avoid that will harm your garden?
    Thanks!

    • Many herbs are beneficial insect attractors and can be used in the kitchen as well. Plant dill, mint, sage, chives, thyme, rosemary, borage, lavender, lemon balm, fennel, marjoram, and anise.

  4. How close do you plant companion plants? For instance, if I wanted to plant marigolds to repel insects in my garden, how close to the garden-or how close to the vegetables-do I plant them?

    • You may want to plant marigolds or other insect-repelling plants around the edge of the garden or around the edge of a planting bed to repel insects from venturing too far into the garden or planting bed. Space companions far enough apart that they can reach mature size without overlapping the neighbor plants by more than an inch or so.

    • Here are a few steps to control weevils in the garden: (1) remove all dead plants and control weeds; (2) when winter comes turn the soil with a shovel exposing insects in the soil to cold or freezing temperatures; (3) crop rotation–don’t grow the same crop in the same place 2 years in a row; (3) sprinkle diatomaceous earth around plants in the garden; cover the stems and leave and undersides of leaves–DE is an abrasive that will injure and kill weevils; (4) botanical contact poisons that kill weevils include pyrethrum rotenone, and sabadilla–these must strike the insects.

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