As an organic farm, we do not use any toxic chemical pesticides to keep insect pests under control. We use natural methods instead, the most important one being phacelia, a indigenous plant to North and South America, used extensively in Europe as an insectiary and cover crop, especially in vineyards. Also known as lacy phacelia, it’s a leggy wildflower with a bloom that looks similar to thistle. Predator insects like ladybugs, hover flies, assassin bugs, lacewings, praying mantis, and tachinid flies love to hide in its tiny flowers and hunt.
We plant beds of phacelia in and around our beds of brassicae crops. Aphids are partial to the brassicae family (broccoli, cauliflower, kales, Brussels sprouts, etc.) but if the predator insects that love to eat aphids are living and foraging close by, we find far fewer aphids than otherwise!
Phacelia’s prodigious ability to produce nectar also makes it popular with bees. We plant it early so it’s blooming by the time our brassicae crops get started in the fields, and in the heat of June or July, you can stand near it and literally feel the vibration of thousands of bees and flies humming. If left to its own devices, it can spread quickly, but if properly managed, it is an important component of our integrated pest management program.