Spring is the time for gardens to be planted out for the delicious glut of summer vegetables, a time when all those nasty pests appear to feast on young seedlings.
You can quite easily reach for a chemical spray that's guaranteed to get rid of them, along with everything else that lives in your garden.
However, there are safer alternatives to 'garden-genocide'.
Instead of monoculture – planting of a mass of one species together – make a mixed planting for mutual protection. Plant your herbs and vegetables together to repel insect attack and to promote the growth and flavour of your vegetables. You will be working with nature and not against it, encouraging friendly species of insects and other creatures to live in your garden and feed on those you wish to eradicate.
Tomatoes grow well near asparagus, celery, parsley, basil, carrots and chives. Basil planted between rows will repel white flies, French marigolds growing nearby will keep nematodes at bay, and stinging nettles will protect them from mould. Carefully dig up and transplant one or two amongst your tomato plants.
Melons grow well between rows of sweet corn, as will squash and cucumbers. Sweet corn grown near tomatoes will lure the pest Heliothis from them. Summer savory planted between rows of beans will inhibit the bean beetle. Onions appreciate summer savory too. Sage protects carrots against carrot flies, as do alternate rows of leeks. Sage will also keep the white butterfly away from cabbages.
All plants growing near thyme are invigorated by it. When thyme is grown near plants of the cabbage family, it will repel cabbage-root flies.
Nasturtiums growing amongst vegetables drive away aphids, keep away cucumber beetles, and when planted near radishes will give them a good hot taste.
Lemon balm attracts bees to the garden and can be used as a border edging in combination with calendulas or French marigolds. Marigolds drive away all manner of pests because of their strong and unpleasant odour.
Rue is another herb that insects won't go near and slugs avoid it. Rue makes a useful edging hedge, less than a metre high, and is easily grown from seed. Keep it away from sage and basil. They don't mix.
Bitter herbs such as southernwood, wormwood and mugwort will not only repel slugs and insects, but can also discourage mice and birds from eating newly planted seeds. Herbs should be dried, then powdered, and sprinkled over the garden bed and covered with a sprinkling of earth.
Working with nature will reward you with healthier produce.