Borage is a magnet for beneficial bees, repels tomato hornworms, and is as beautiful as it is useful.

Borage is a magnet for beneficial bees, repels tomato hornworms, and is as beautiful as it is useful.

Want to bring butterflies, bees, and hummingbids into the garden without having to create a special “theme” planting or buy a lot of pricey varieties? Need to reduce the destructive nibbling bugs in the vegetable patch without using articifical chemicals? The Pollinator Herb Mix, a single packet of 100 seeds costing less than $5, brings you 9 essential pollinator-attracting, pest-fighting herbs. And a nice little bonus is that these are all culinary herbs, so you can eat the foliage while pollinators feast on the nectar and/or pollen!

The easiest way to plant these seeds is to broadcast them into the spring garden once the soil warms. But to get a head start, and to grow certain herbs strategically as pest fighters and pollinator attractors among your veggies and flowering plants, you may want to germinate them in the Bio Dome or seed flats this winter. We’ll help you identify the seeds and seedlings of each variety, so you can know just where you want to place all your new herbs at transplant time!

The Pollinator Herb Mix contains borage, chives, sage, basil, lemon mint, catnip, sweet marjoram, oregano, and creeping thyme. Here is a brief description of pest-fighting and pollinator-attracting ability of each, along with a photo of seed (magnified) and the seedling. Have fun watching all the seeds in this economical mix sprout and grow, and then use them to create your most beautiful and useful garden yet!

Irresistible to bees and a deterrent to hornworms, Borage belongs among your Tomatoes and Strawberries.

Irresistible to bees and a deterrent to hornworms, Borage belongs among your Tomatoes and Strawberries.

Borage is a superstar in the pollinator universe. This annual attracts bees, repels tomato hornworms, and offers lovely (and edible!) blue blooms all summer. Pair it with Marigolds in your tomato patch, with Coreopsis in the bed or border, and with all your vegetables.

Many gardeners begin growing Borage as a pollinator attractant and wind up designing whole garden areas around it, in love with its soft blue color and easy-care growth.

Chives sends up straight, slender shoots, eventually crowned with edible flowers that pollinators adore.

Chives sends up straight, slender shoots, eventually crowned with edible flowers that pollinators adore.

Chives is an Allium, so it discourages many destructive pests while welcoming beneficials into the garden. It is one of the best Japanese beetle repellents, standing guard among roses, 4 o’Clocks, and other plants prone to that scourge. A perennial, it also does well around long-lived fruit plants, from raspberries to grapevines. Snip the tops for the kitchen all season, and let this plant go to seed. It will return for years!

 

Sage stands sentry against carrot flies and cabbage moths, among others.

Sage stands sentry against carrot flies and cabbage moths, among others.

Sage is probably already growing in your garden somewhere, thanks to its many beautiful species and varieties. But for the purpose of bringing in pollinators and keeping out the bad guys, nothing works as well as good old Common Garden Sage (Salvia officinalis). Plant it among all your brassicas (cabbage, broccoli, kale, etc.) to repel cabbage worm, and with carrots to keep the carrot flies at bay. Bees and butterflies adore this plant, and its rich scent will delight you, too!

Bees sip the sweet nectar of basil flowers from midsummer into fall!

Bees sip the sweet nectar of basil flowers from midsummer into fall!

Basil is so delicious that sometimes we forget it is also a workhorse in the garden! It’s not merely convenient to plant it among the tomatoes — it’s also useful, for basil discourages tomato hornworms. One of the asparagus patch’s best friends, it keeps beetles away from this slow-growing perennial crop.

Wherever you plant basil, it repels aphids, mites, and even mosquitoes! Of course, the secret is that heady fragrance, so enticing to humans and unpleasant to nibbling pests. Plant basil near paths and walkways, where you can brush by and set the aroma loose to do its good work.

Pollinators love mint and many pests are repelled by it, but be cautious about planting it too freely in the garden!

Pollinators love mint and many pests are repelled by it, but be cautious about planting it too freely in the garden!

Lemon mint combines the spicy aroma of mint with the citrus tang of lemon, a one-two punch that discourages destructive cabbae moths, aphids, and others from venturing farther into your vegetable patch. Butterflies and hummingbirds love mint and will not leave it alone!

However, mint is invasive. This is not a plant to freely set among your vegetables and flowering plants, for it will run all over them, and you will be weeding out volunteers for many seasons to come. Use it in pots that can be moved around the garden to guard vegetables and bring pollinators into certain spots. And if you want to plant mint in the ground, consider it for contained areas of the garden, such as a street planting, a driveway area, or a bare slope. One of the advantages of mint is that once it takes hold, it will colonize areas where few other plants dare to grow, so experiment with inhospitable places you have not had luck with yet.

Not just for the pleasure of cats, Catnip is one of the best pest fighters in the garden!

Not just for the pleasure of cats, Catnip is one of the best pest fighters in the garden!

Catnip is a relative of mint, so it also likes to spread freely, though you will not find it as tenacious as its cousin. The pest repellent qualities of this herb are legion, and you should definitely consider it among your squash and potato vines, along the margins of the asparagus bed, and anywhere you have had an aphid problem.

One often overlooked benefit of catnip is that because it attracts cats, if you plant it in areas where voles, moles, gophers, and other burrowing rodents are playing havoc with your plant roots, you may find that the cats do a better job of ridding the soil of these pests than any artificial repellent can!

In addition to its magnetism for cats, Catnip attracts bees, wasps, butterflies, and hummingbirds with its pretty, nectar-rich pink blooms.

Often overlooked on the spice rack, Marjoram may become a star in your herb or vegetable patch!

Often overlooked on the spice rack, Marjoram may become a star in your herb or vegetable patch!

Sweet Marjoram is a member of the Oregano family, very strongly scented and beautiful in the sunny garden, with fuzzy gray-green foliage and small flowers that honeybees visit on a daily basis. Harvest the individual leaves for seasoning in late spring and early summer, then enjoy its rich scent and pollinator-attractant properties from midsummer to first frost.

One of the pollinators' favorite plants, Oregano begins bringing bees and butterflies into the garden even before it blooms!

One of the pollinators’ favorite plants, Oregano begins bringing bees and butterflies into the garden even before it blooms!

 Oregano is irresistible to honeybees and other pollinators all season. You will want to grow some of these plants just for their fragrant, delicious foliage, but try to let a few go to flower and then get your camera ready as bees come to gorge themselves on nectar!

Notice that the young Thyme seedling doesn't "creep" at first, but will soon spread or cascade up to 3 feet!

Notice that the young Thyme seedling doesn’t “creep” at first, but will soon spread or cascade up to 3 feet!

 Creeping Thyme is such a beautiful plant that you may forget that it is also keeping destructive moths away from all your Brassica family vegetables (cabbage, broccoli, kale, etc.). A long-lived perennial hardy in zones 4-9, it should be transplanted into borders and as a permanent edging for the vegetable patch or herb garden.

Butterflies and bees will flock to creeping thyme, so considering elevating a few plants of this groundcover to better suit their needs: it makes a stunning window box, hanging basket, and terrace-garden choice.

And if you want sheer coverage, bear in mind that a single plant can spread about 3 feet wide over time! There is no downside to creeping thyme: it is a pure delight in fragrance, flower, ease of care, pollinator attraction, and pest deterrence!

From a single packet of seeds such as the Pollinator Herb Mix, you can grow a long-lasting, beautiful garden that brings in good bugs, drives out bad, and offers fragrance, flowers, and edible foliage for months!

About Sappho Charney

Sappho Charney is a garden writer living in Lubbock, Texas.

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