Tuesday, 3 July 2007

Portable sunshine! Convolvulus Tricolor

Organic gardeners always want to give nature a helping hand. If we don’t use pesticides, how will we manage garden pests that have, in the past, been controlled with a spray?

One answer is to plant flowers to attract beneficial insects – and convolvulus tricolor is ideal. Its flowers are in shades of blues and pinks with an inner ring of white and a yellow centre. Portable sunshine!

It is an annual, sown into peat free compost in trays in the spring. Once nicely established they are planted out after the final frosts. The brassica bed is where we use them. This is where aphids and whitefly can be particular pests and any natural control measures we can use we will. Dot the transplanted plants around informally and they grow to small plants of 30cm across that are full of flower from June well into September.

The convolvulus plants have wide, simple flowers and they are especially popular with the gardeners’ friend: the hoverfly. On sunny summer days hoverflies large and small buzz around the flowers, taking sips of nectar before going on a bug hunt for aphids. Their larvae love aphids!

Don’t worry that its flowers are similar to those of its distant cousin: bindweed (Calystegia sepium)*. This awful pest has nasty, long white roots that are almost impossible to eradicate from the soil if you have had an infestation. Convolvulus tricolor is an annual plant that will never be anything other than welcome in the organic vegetable garden.

*Although bindweed is one of the worst garden weeds – it can be turned into a fantastic liquid feed.
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