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Updated: March 31, 2011 15:18 IST

Just too pretty for those pests

Thilaka Baskaran
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Insect proof: Planting geraniums and marigolds can be your best bet against insects. Photo: K. Murali Kumar
The Hindu Insect proof: Planting geraniums and marigolds can be your best bet against insects. Photo: K. Murali Kumar

Use marigold as a ‘companion plant' to ward off pests, writes Thilaka Baskaran

Any good gardener, anywhere in the world, would tell you that the two simplest and most popular methods to keep pests away are plant rotation and companion planting. Crop rotation works on the principle that plants of one family often suffer from the same pests.

When related crops are grown in a garden, pests tend to multiply within the soil for several reasons. You can overcome this, even in a small garden, by rotating the plants on the basis of family groups. The easiest way to do this is to divide your garden into four sections for the four main plant groups. One: leafy vegetables, such as spinach and the cabbage family.

Two: tomato, brinjal and chilly. Three: root vegetables such as carrot and radish. And four: legumes like different kinds of beans. In a systematic rotation, each section in your garden patch eventually raises every plant family.

Rotating the plants to different sections of the garden not only prevents pests but also checks the soil from getting depleted of the nutrients that a particular plant needs.

Companion planting is based on the idea that certain plants can benefit others when raised close to each other.

Many plants have natural substances in their roots and leaves that can repel insects. In some cases they enhance the growth of the neighbouring plant. Traditionally, companion planting was popular with gardeners, but with the arrival of chemical pesticides this was given up by many. Now it has been scientifically proved that companion planting works.

Border plants

Many types of herbs like coriander, mint, garlic and onion chives can be grown around vegetable beds as border plants or planted among flowering plants. Geraniums, nasturtiums and marigolds are flowering companion plants that can be raised easily in Bangalore. The most popular companion plant all over the world is marigold, credited with effective pest management.

Advantages

Marigolds are easy to grow, and ward off unwanted insects while also keeping the soil free of bad nematodes. There are a variety of marigolds, in striking shades of orange and yellow: tall plants with large flowers or the dwarf ones with maroons and orange flowers that blossom in abundance. They grow and flower the whole year through with very little effort on your part. There's no prettier way to keeping pests at bay!

Keywords: pestsgardening

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