Summer brings out the flies – fruit fly, bush fly, house fly, vinegar fly, cluster fly, sand fly, horse fly, blow fly…
Flies are annoying at best, painful at worst. They lay eggs where their young will forage and soon maggots pulse and swarm in a truly disgusting sight.
I have come, though, to appreciate their place in the ecosystem…
- Without flies, there are no maggots.
- Without maggots, dead stuff rots, stinks and attracts vermin.
- Birds lose their food source.
- Nutrient cycles are interrupted.
So, we need the flies.
However, a fly buzzing in the house or around the Sunday lunch on the veranda is not welcome.
Plants come to the rescue
I grow Tansy in strategic locations around the farm. Although admittedly not as potent as as an insecticide aerosol or an electric fly zapper (isn’t it fun to chase a fly with an electric racquet?!?!?) which aim is to destroy the animal, Tansy helps us shoosh away the pesky insect. It has other useful functions too.
Tansy is a perennial herbaceous plant known for its insect-repellent attributes (deterring many non-nectar eating insects). It grows stems up to 1m. In early summer, the button-like flowers bloom and attract beneficial insects. Tansy grows in almost any kind of soils, either part-shade or full sun. In late autumn, you can cut back hard the plant to keep it a bushy form. Dry the stalks first before composting (they take roots easily).
- In the veggie patch and the food forest, they act as companion plant and integrated pest management: it is known to repel ants, cucumber beetles, Japanese beetles, squash bugs, fruit fly, among others.
- Around the veranda, the wind or heat disperses the insect-repelling fragrance.
- Fresh stems hung at the doors or on window sills will repel flies.
- Rubbed on hair or farm clothes, or crushed leaves placed inside a hat or socks will deter horse and bush flies.
- Fresh leaves placed on the fruit basket will deter vinegar flies.
- Cut flower stalks can be brought inside the house or used in pot-pourri.
Other useful functions
- Tansy increases the potassium content in the soil.
- Pluck the leaves to add to your compost.
- Make compost-tea (liquid manure) by soaking Tansy leaves in a bucket of water for a week.
- Tansy is attractive to honeybees.
- It has both medicinal and culinary uses.
- Dried tansy can be used in a bee smoker.
Bring your garden produce to swap with some of my tansy plants from at the next Dooralong Produce Swap (2nd Sunday of the month -8 January- along with “Music in the Park”, 2-4pm. Swap starts at 3.30pm.)
- Tansy is toxic to some browsing/grazing animals.
- Stems root easily – dry well before composting.
See you at one of our courses to learn more about permaculture and how to design a truly sustainable garden!
- Part-time Permaculture Course held on our farm in Jilliby (NSW Central Coast) – 8 August to 18 November 2017
- Intro to Permaculture (info coming soon)