11 Trap Plants You Should Be Growing To Help Deter Pests

A trap crop is essentially a sacrificial crop planted to attract pests and insects away from valuable fruits and vegetables. The concept behind it is to keep your prized crops healthy and safe so that you can enjoy them without any damage.

This can be seen as a form of companion planting, which is backed by extensive new and emerging science despite being fraught with gardening myths and lore.

Planting Trap Crops Effectively

Basket of plants and herbs.
Photo Credit: Envato Elements.

When planting trap crops, consider both timing and proximity to maximize their effectiveness. Ideally, sow trap crops a few weeks before your main crops. This early planting ensures that the trap crops are sufficiently mature and attractive to pests by the time your primary crops begin to grow.

For placement, trap crops can either be sown around the perimeter of your garden to act as a border or interspersed among your main crops. This positioning helps intercept pests before they reach valuable plants. Typically, planting trap crops about 10 to 30 feet away from target crops is effective, but this can vary based on the pest and crop type.

Basil

Basil.
Photo Credit: Envato Elements.

Basil attracts thrips, aphids, and Japanese beetles. These pests are drawn to the strong scent and the foliage of basil, diverting them from more valuable crops. Basil is particularly useful when planted near tomatoes, peppers, and other herbs, which often suffer from these pests. The aromatic properties of basil also help in repelling flies and mosquitoes, providing an additional layer of protection for the garden.

Thyme

Thyme.
Photo Credit: Envato Elements.

Thyme serves as a trap crop for cabbage worms and whiteflies. By drawing these pests, thyme helps protect cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, and kale, which are typically targeted by cabbage worms. Similarly, whiteflies that might otherwise affect a variety of garden plants are also attracted to thyme, helping to safeguard nearby vegetation.

Nasturtiums

Nasturtiums.
Photo Credit: Envato Elements.

Nasturtiums effectively lure aphids, squash bugs, and cucumber beetles. This makes them excellent companions for vegetables like squashes, cucumbers, and other members of the cucurbit family. By diverting these pests, nasturtiums help reduce damage and increase the health and yield of these crops.

Radish

Radish.
Photo Credit: Envato Elements.

Radish acts as a trap crop for flea beetles, which are common pests of many garden vegetables, especially crucifers like cabbage and broccoli. By planting radishes along the borders of these crops or interspersing them, flea beetles are more likely to infest the radishes instead of more valuable plants.

Chervil

Chervil.
Photo Credit: Envato Elements.

Chervil is known to attract slugs and snails, which might otherwise target leafy greens and other tender garden plants. Its use as a trap crop can keep these pests occupied and less likely to damage nearby valuable crops.

Marigolds

Marigolds.
Photo Credit: Envato Elements.

Marigolds are well-known for their ability to attract and trap nematodes, particularly root-knot nematodes, which can damage a wide variety of garden crops. Additionally, marigolds can lure aphids and some beetles away from other plants, providing a broad spectrum of protection.

Parsley

Parsley.
Photo Credit: Envato Elements.

Parsley is effective at attracting carrot flies, which can be detrimental to carrot crops. By planting parsley near carrots, the flies are more likely to target the parsley, reducing harm to the carrots. Parsley also attracts beneficial insects, which can help in controlling other pest populations.

Alfalfa

Alfalfa.
Photo Credit: Envato Elements.

Alfalfa attracts lygus bugs and aphids, diverting these pests from neighboring crops and offering protection. It is particularly useful when planted near strawberries, legumes, and solanaceous crops like tomatoes and peppers, which can suffer from the damage these pests cause. Alfalfa’s ability to attract beneficial insects further enhances its protective qualities for the surrounding garden.

Sunflowers

Sunflowers.
Photo Credit: Envato Elements.

Sunflowers are excellent trap crops for drawing aphids and stink bugs away from more vulnerable garden vegetables. By planting sunflowers around the perimeter of your garden or near susceptible plants such as tomatoes and peppers, you can significantly reduce the pest load on these crops. Sunflowers are particularly appealing to pests due to their large, vibrant flowers and substantial foliage, making them ideal for keeping these pests occupied and away from your main crops.

Buckwheat

Buckwheat blooming.
Photo Credit: Envato Elements.

Buckwheat is a quick-growing crop that can be used to lure lygus bugs and other insect pests away from fruiting vegetables and soft fruits. The flowers of buckwheat are highly attractive to these pests, making it a suitable buffer crop. Additionally, buckwheat can improve soil health and attract beneficial pollinators, adding to its value as a companion plant in the garden.

Millet

Millet.
Photo Credit: Envato Elements.

Millet offers another strategic option, especially useful for attracting and trapping grasshoppers and certain beetles that might otherwise target a wide variety of vegetable crops. Planting millet around your garden or near crops that are frequently damaged by these pests can serve as an effective deterrent. The dense growth of millet is particularly good at keeping these pests engaged and away from more valuable plants.

Asparagus Companion Plants

Bundles of purple asparagus.
Photo Credit: Envato Elements.

Learn More: The Best and Worst Companion Plants for Asparagus

Strawberry Companion Plants

Strawberry growing in a raised garden bed.
Photo Credit: Envato Elements.

Learn More: The Best & Worst Strawberry Companion Plants According To Science

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