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Trap crops are plants that lure pests away from crops you wish to keep safe. They usually have a distinct smell to these pests or have ie colourful flowers. The basic idea is to choose a crop that pest insects prefer over the plants you hope to grow without disturbance.
Setting up a trap crop
Create a buffer around the desired crop. Plant a rectangle or square of the trap crop around the plants you're seeking to protect. The aim is to trap the pest insects in the first buffer zone, enticing them to stay there and not move inward to the real crop.
In the case of a small area, where it is impractical to plant a large buffer zone around the garden crops, plant trap crops close to the vegetables and fruits you hope to grow undisturbed.
Caring for trap crops
Check the trap crop regularly. Hand pick the pest insects off the trap crop and remove them. If this is not done regularly, all that will happen is that the pest insects are invited in and will move into the crops where you don't want them. The trap crop then transforms into an attractant for all the unwanted pests! As well as hand picking, you can use other methods for removing the pest insects, such as water blasting and soapy sprays.
A signal crop is a crop or simply leaves of a crop that are placed near a row of crops to allow quick discovery of a pest, when it is present. It is thus not intended to lure away a pest for any length of time, it's only used to notify the farmer when he needs to take countermeasures against a pest. For example: Tropaeolum majus is signal crop for mites.
Examples of trap crops
- HibiscusW cotton variety - When planted around the edges of cotton fields it can deter pests who would prefer to feed on the hibiscus
- SorghumW - When planted around maize it attracts the birds away from eating the maize
- An early planting of the same species you want to grow, but a planting you're willing to "sacrifice"
- Nasturtiums - These can attract the squash vine borer and cucumber beetles
- Sunflowers - These can attract stink bugs and leaf-footed beetles (Peredovik-type sunflowers for the latter pest)
- Dill and lovage - These can attract tomato hornworms
- French marigolds, sorrel and chervil - These can attract slugs
- Garlic, onions, medic - These can attract carrot root flies
- Radishes - These can attract cabbage root flies and flea beetles
- Pelargonium x hortorum geraniums - These can attract, paralyze and kill Japanese beetles
Sources and citations
- Anna Hess, The Naturally Bug-Free Garden
- Anna Hess, (2012), The Naturally Bug-Free Garden: Controlling Pest Insects Without Chemicals, ISBN 978-1-63220-630-5