What is a trap crop?

okra growing and blooming
If you don’t like to eat okra, it’s still effective as a trap crop for many vegetables!

Question: What is a trap crop for home gardeners? I’ve heard the term mentioned in discussions about organic gardening methods, but I’m not exactly sure what it means. Can you please explain? – Laura D.

Gardening Channel Replies: A trap crop, also known as a sacrificial crop, is a planting strategy used by home gardeners to help protect their main crops from pests. The idea behind trap cropping is to lure pests away from your primary plants by providing an alternative, more attractive food source. Let’s delve into the concept and its benefits:

1. Luring Pests Away

Trap crops are plants that are highly attractive to specific pests, drawing them away from the primary crops you want to protect. By concentrating the pests on the trap crop, you can reduce the damage to your main plants and potentially eliminate the need for chemical pesticides.

2. Selecting Your Trap Crop Plants

The choice of trap crops depends on the pests you want to control and the primary plants you’re growing. Some common trap crops include nasturtiums, sunflowers or okra (for aphids), sunflowers, okra and field peas (for stink bugs), radishes, Chinese ‘Southern Giant’ mustard and daikon radishes (for flea beetles), and dill for tomato hornworms. It’s important to research which trap crops are most effective for the pests in your specific region and the plants you want to protect.

3. Planting and Caring for Them

To effectively use trap crops, plant them near your primary crops but separated by a short distance. This helps to create a barrier that attracts pests away from your main plants. Be sure to monitor your trap crop closely for signs of infestation, and take appropriate action (such as removing infested plants or introducing beneficial insects) to manage the pest population.

To sum it up, a trap crop is a gardening technique that involves planting specific plants to attract and divert pests away from your primary crops. By using trap crops, home gardeners can reduce pest damage and potentially decrease the reliance on chemical pesticides, or providing you a spot to use pesticides on plants that you don’t plan to eat instead of on your vegetable plants.

Here’s a table of trap crops that home gardeners can use to attract and divert pests from their main crops.

Trap Crop Attracts These Pests Grow to Protect
Nasturtiums Aphids Tomatoes, Brassicas
Sunflowers Aphids, Stink Bugs, Leaf Footed Bugs Peppers, Tomatoes
Radishes Flea Beetles Cabbage, Broccoli
Marigolds Thrips, Fruit Borers Tomatoes, Lettuce
Mustard Greens Cabbage Loopers, Flea Beetles Brassicas, Crucifers
Dill Tomato Hornworms Tomatoes
Okra Stink Bugs, Aphids Tomatoes, Peppers, Corn

Learn More About Trap Crops




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