Tansy against flies

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…

  1. Without flies, there are no maggots.
  2. Without maggots, dead stuff rots, stinks and attracts vermin.
  3. Birds lose their food source.
  4. Nutrient cycles are interrupted.
  5. Etc..

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

  1. Tansy increases the potassium content in the soil.
  2. Pluck the leaves to add to your compost.
  3. Make compost-tea (liquid manure) by soaking Tansy leaves in a bucket of water for a week.
  4. Tansy is attractive to honeybees.
  5. It has both medicinal and culinary uses.
  6. 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)

Insect hotel for habitat and resilience

We recently hosted a small party of permaculture aficionados who came to spend a few hours with us here, share a meal, tools, skills, conversations, friendship and fun…

Kids played together, hammering nails into wood and going to and fro the sand pit, patting baby chicken and rabbits along the way, brushing against the plants in our veggie patch and orchard, harvesting flowers, sun and oxygen…

The basis of this gathering was to learn how to make an insect hotel from scratch and why we might need some in our backyards. It was also to play together and have fun.

What is an insect hotel

Insect hotel by TG
Insect hotel by TG

An insect hotel is an infrastructure that welcomes beneficial insects in a certain area of your garden, orchard or backyard, providing them shelter and a place to nest, close to their food source.

These infrastructures are made of absolutely any material you can upcycle or repurpose – wood, logs, stump, bricks, besser blocks, pipes, pallets, terracotta pots, corrugated cardboard, straw, etc.

They can be made into a simple structure which you hang in a tree, such as a large bamboo pole cut to size and filled with sticks or bark… or it could be an elaborate structure requiring wood work, tools and a construction mind-set!

What motivates us here at Valley’s End is to ‘make things with what we have’…  and for these things to be functional and pretty too.

We scavenged sticks and bark from our farm driveway and old fence paling from a council clean up pile. Jaz brought pine cones, Andrew cordless drill and other tools and Di large bamboo poles.

Functions of an insect hotel

  • Mini insect hotel to hang out in the garden - by Isa
    Mini insect hotel to hang out in the garden – by Isa

    Increase biodiversity

  • Integrated Pest Management
  • Habitat: nest, hibernation shelter
  • Pollination
  • Education
  • Fun project for kids (and grown-up!)
  • Upcycled garden art

Insects it will attract

  • Parasitic insects
  • Solitary bees and wasps
  • Decomposers
Diversity of materials for a diversity of insect species, functions and beauty
Diversity of materials for a diversity of insect species, functions and beauty

Beetles  – Bark laid onto each others
Centipede  – Decaying wood
Earwigs – Bundle of dry grass or straw
Hoverfly – Hollow stems
Lacewing – Rolled corrugated cardboard
Ladybugs – Twigs, hollow stems, leaf litter
Native bees – Hollow wood, empty coconut
Slaters – Decaying wood
Solitary bees – Hollow stems, pipes, bricks (with holes), bamboo
Solitary wasps – Hollow stems, pipes, bricks (with holes), bamboo
Spiders – Any dry nook and cranny

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