the seed library buzz on attracting good bugs

SHOW GOOD BUGS SOME LOVE, say my across-the-river neighbors at Hudson Valley Seed Library…and while you’re at it, show an independent, right-minded small seed company some love, too.  I’m ordering a supply of the Seed Library’s charmingly named and artfully packaged Good Bug Blooms packets (above, with flaps unfolded), enough to share with friends—and with the bugs in my garden, most of all.

Technically speaking, a “good bug bloom” would be one whose individual flowers are small (even if they’re massed in a big flowerhead, as dill or fennel are), and whose pollen and nectar are exposed for easy access.  They’d attract beneficial insect pollinators and predators—lacewings, for instance, or ladybugs, or ground beetles or beneficial wasps—creatures who spread pollen and/or feed on insect pests.

A succession of beneficial blooms—not just one species or variety—will yield season-long appeal to a range of desired insects in all their life phases. Co-founder Ken Greene of Hudson Valley Seed Library says their Good Bug Blooms mix was formulated with that (and also eye-appeal to humans) in mind.

Their current mix includes sulphur Cosmos, annual Gaillardia, ‘Lilliput Mix’ zinnia, ‘Persian Carpet’ zinnia, sweet alyssum, blue cornflower, German chamomile, scarlet flax, blue flax, annual baby’s breath, and ‘Pumila Mix’ zinnia.

“I also recommend letting some of your umbels flower and go to seed,” says Greene, who recommends other single-variety packets for their bug-friendliness, including parsnip, dill, parsley, and cilantro/coriander. “They are amazing for beneficials,” he says. “It’s one of the bonuses of being a seed saver. We have so much blooming on the farm that ordinarily would be interrupted by our appetites! We have no pollination worries here with all the natives we attract and create habitat for.”

Which hints at the only “downside” of growing beneficial blooms: You have to exhibit some restraint, and let the plants grow on. Please don’t pick the flowers! Someone of a lower order with a much higher purpose is counting on them.

more to ponder:

  1. Fascinating. God, I just love gardening. There is so much to learn and I love the idea of feeding the bugs.

    As an aside, I learned about the Hudson Valley Seed Library on this blog a couple years ago and I just love their art packs. I just ordered five of them. I don’t even know what seeds I ordered … I love them for the packs!

  2. Jayne says:

    I missed that when I ordered from them! I love their art work. Cant wait for the snow to melt (if ever!) so I can get their ‘Ragged Jack’ Kale in the ground!!

    1. Margaret says:

      @Sheryl: I did list the ingredients in the packet in the post — is that what you meant? I know it wasn’t detailed on their website, but I emailed to ask. Hope that helps.

  3. Cary says:

    Thanks Margaret for introducing me to this wonderful resource! Just placed my first order and cannot wait to see the beneficial bugs packet in my hand, and blooming in the garden! You rock!!!

  4. TomW says:

    For good garden design reading on leaving plants to overwinter, check out one of the many Piet Oudolf books. Try _Designing_with_Plants to get a awe inspiring look at some fantastic umbels. :-) Not only good design but yeah, beneficial for the insects (birds, too!)

    Margaret, thanks for the Hudson Valley Seed info. I don’t need many seeds at the moment but may buy some from them just for the artwork!

    I like the Art Packs!

  5. Gigi says:

    Thanks for this wonderful resource, Margaret. I live in USDA Zone 7a (central North Carolina). Do you think the seeds cultivated and sold in the Hudson Valley will fare well here? Does Hudson Valley make an attempt to match mailing addresses with hardiness?

    Even if not, I would love to buy the empty seed packets! They are beautiful works!

    1. Margaret says:

      Welcome, Gigi. Yes, seed vendors sell over a wide range of states/zones, so probably the seed you get from other catalogs comes from Oregon or California (two very big commercial seed-growing zones) and so on. Ideally, we’d all have locally grown (and therefore perfectly adapted) seed for the very best results…but I’d venture to say that none of the seed most of us buys (unless we live in those big seed-growing areas or ones like them) is “local”. So yes, providing the plants in the mix are good ones for your area, it will be fine.

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