Decoy Planting to Protect Vegetables

Over the past few months, I have invested time, energy and money into growing plants to produce food. Finding missing seedlings or leaves stripped bare by slugs and other pests can be very demotivating.

In previous years I would have put slug pellets down around my plants to protect them. This year I wanted to find a way to protect my crops and avoid killing what I saw as pests and find a way for us to coexist and get what we both want, some food and healthy life. I have already moved away from using peat compost in my garden, so it feels right to work in harmony with the creatures which share my garden with me.

My cabbage, sprouting broccoli and squashes have suffered the most and attracted slugs from the moment I transplanted them into my vegetable plot. Whole plants disappeared overnight, and others were left with the skeletons on leaves, and it was a sorry sight.

It was by chance that I was talking to my mother-in-law, who mentioned her father, an avid gardener, who told her that marigolds were a good companion plant to protect vegetables from slugs. She had not had any issues since planting marigolds around her vegetables.

The next day I headed to a garden centre to pick up some Marigolds from their bedding plant section. A pack of ten plants cost around £2.60, so I bought two to try out.

I planted the marigolds around my worst hit crop, cabbage. To my surprise, the damage stopped overnight. It wasn’t because the slugs had gone, other unprotected crops had continued to experience damage, but they seemed to bypass the protected plants and either attack the marigolds or just crawl past.

I felt a wave of satisfaction. Not only had I protected my crop, but I also did not need to kill slugs and snails, which would help create a healthier, more diverse garden for various creatures. Our area has a large hedgehog population, and they will love feeding on the slugs. By allowing a food source to grow in my garden, I hope their preditors will move in and help keep population numbers under control.

I decided to look up how this works to see if it was more than a story handed down by generations of gardeners. There is evidence to support the use of Marigolds in the garden to protect plants.

Marigolds can help protect plants by producing toxic chemicals from their roots, killing root-knot nematodes (a type of worm that attacks roots). They are also thought to prevent pests due to their scent, as long as they are scented varieties. There’s little scientific support for this view, but many gardeners support this claim. Marigolds can also act as a decoy or sacrificial plant by attracting slugs away from the crop you are protecting. This was the case in my garden. I have several marigolds showing slug damage, and the cabbage next to it was untouched.

It’s safe to say I repeated my trip to the garden centre and picked up more marigolds. The price had dropped to £1 for ten, and I picked up five trays. All my beds in my vegetable patch have been lined with Marigolds.

It would be great to hear from you if you have other ways to protect your vegetables from slugs and other pests whilst not causing them direct harm. I’m on the lookout for a natural way to control blackfly populations.


One Comment Add yours

  1. tonytomeo says:

    Mulberry trees lived on the perimeters of some of the old stone fruit orchards of the Santa Clara Valley to feed the birds that would otherwise eat the important fruit within the orchards. Cultivars of mulberry were selected to ripen at the same time as the fruit within the orchard. Mulberries were not an agricultural commodity there. They merely occupied the birds.

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