There are many reasons why growing flowers in the vegetable garden is a good idea. Flowers provide more than just beauty in the garden. They have many practical uses as well. Here’s why you should grow flowers and vegetables together and how to know which flowers to grow.
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Why Grow Flowers in Your Vegetable Garden
1. Flowers grown among your vegetables can help deter pests. There are many insects that like to feast on your fresh vegetable plants, but some flowers, such as marigolds, actually repel insects.
2. Another reason to plant flowers in your vegetable garden is that the pretty flowers will attract bees and other pollinators. Many crops won’t produce fruit without being pollinated. For instance, if you see small squash that are starting to rot, that usually means the squash did not get pollinated. Providing a few flowers will attract more bees to your garden to ensure proper pollination. That means more food for you!
3. Some flowers can even benefit the soil. Plants that grow long roots can pull nutrients up from deep in the soil that will make them available to your vegetables. Others help the soil by deterring nematodes that eat the roots of your vegetables.
4. Growing flowers in the vegetable garden can add additional food to your table as some flowers are even edible. While most people immediately think of squash blossoms when they think of edible flowers in the garden, but pansies and nasturtiums are also edible. They are an attractive addition to a homegrown salad.
5. A final reason to grow flowers is to provide beauty in the garden. Vegetable gardens can be gorgeous. And even if your garden is not worthy of a magazine (I know mine sure isn’t.) a few flowers can make you smile as you go to pick your produce. If you have lots of blooms, you may even be able to bring a few cut blooms indoors.
How (and Where) to Plant the Flowers
Planting flowers among your garden is helpful to attract bees and deter pests.
There are actually several ways you can plant flowers in a vegetable garden. The easiest way is just to intermingle a few with your vegetables. I always plant a few marigolds sporadically through my garden as lots of pests don’t like the way they smell. Their scent can confuse bugs so they don’t find your vegetable plants.
In my 4′ x 12′ garden plan, I included a few marigolds for this very reason. I tend to plant marigolds underneath my squash and zucchini and even around tomatoes. Anywhere I have an open space, I will plant marigolds.
You can also plant your flowers as a border around your vegetable garden. Taller plants such as lavender can be planted near the back of the garden and smaller ones such as petunias and marigolds can be planted near the front. Planting flowers in a border around your garden can be especially helpful if rabbits are a problem in your area. Even if you are growing a few vegetables in containers, I recommend planting at least one container with some flowers to attract the bees for pollination.
You can choose to purchase transplants of your flowers or buy seed and start your own. If you are a beginning gardener, I encourage you to purchase transplants if you can find them. However, several of the plants listed below, like marigolds, nasturtiums and cosmos, are easy to grow from seed. Most garden centers and home improvement stores carry petunias and marigolds as well.
What Kind of Flowers Should You Plant?
If you only plant one flower in your vegetable garden, plant marigolds. They are my favorite flower to plant in the garden because they are good for so many things. They deter all kinds of insects and critters. Rabbits don’t like them, and they exude a substance that repels nematodes in the soil. Marigolds are also supposed to help keep tomato hornworms, squash bugs, and Mexican bean beetles away. Their strong scent can confuse bugs so that they can’t find your vegetable plants. Marigolds come in lots of yellows, oranges, and reds so you are sure to find one that will suit your garden aesthetic.
Nasturtiums are said to repel insects, especially squash bugs and whiteflies. I always try to grow a few nasturtiums among my squash & zucchini plants. As a bonus, the flowers of nasturtiums are edible. They have a peppery bite that is a welcome addition to a salad.
Cosmos are one of my favorite flowers to grow. As I kid, I used to beg my Mom to let me purchase some seed each year. Cosmos are not only beautiful and easy to grow but they attract lacewings that eat lots of other insects. They are great for attracting pollinators and they also attract hover flies, a beneficial fly that resembles a bee. Cosmos make great cut flowers to bring indoors.
Petunias make a great border flower to plant with beans, squash, and potatoes. They are useful for deterring bean beetles, potato beetles, and squash bugs. There are so many pretty varieties of petunias in garden centers today. They tend to trail a bit, so leave some room for them to grow. However, if they get out of hand, they can easily be cut back.
Calendula is a great flower to grow in the vegetable garden. Calendula weeps a sticky substance that can trap aphids and other bugs and keep them off other crops. It also helps repel tomato hornworms and asparagus beetles.
Chamomile has deep roots which bring up nutrients deep in the soil. The daisy-like flowers attract bees and butterflies to help with proper pollination. Tea drinkers will enjoy growing chamomile as it can be easily dried for use in tea.
There are many reasons to grow lavender in your garden, but planting it near your vegetables can benefit them as well. Since deer and mice aren’t fond of it, it can help keep them out of your garden. The smell is supposed to deter ticks and other insects. Once harvested, lavender can also be used in the chicken coop and do-it-yourself beauty recipes. One thing to consider when planting lavender is that it is perennial so it will need to be planted where it will be out of the way for years to come. It would make a great plant to use in a border near the back of your garden, but it will also thrive in containers.
Any kind of mint, especially Peppermint and Spearmint, is great to deter ants and cabbage moths. Planting it near cabbage and other brassicas (broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts) can keep them bug free. I do want to caution you however that most types of mint are very invasive. Only plant them in containers near your crops. Otherwise, they may very well take over your whole garden. It took my Mom years and years of work to get rid of the mint she planted in the ground by her back door.
Do You Plant Flowers in Your Vegetable Garden?
I hope this has inspired you to grow a few flowers in your vegetable garden. From naturally keeping the bugs away, to benefiting your soil, flowers can play an important role in vegetable gardening.
Do you plant flowers with your vegetables? What kinds work best in your area? Leave a comment and let me know. I always look forward to hearing from you!
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If you’ve got lots of garden pests eating your vegetables, read 4 Ways to Get Rid of the Bad Bugs in Your Garden for more ways to (naturally) get rid of the bugs.