Adding flowers to your vegetable garden may seem counter-intuitive to you. You’re probably over there thinking something like I have a flower garden, why would I plant flowers in the vegetable garden? They will take up space where I could be growing tomatoes! But what if I told you that those flowers would help your tomatoes taste better, repel pests, and help your plants grow larger? Now I’ve got your attention, right?
Integrating different types of plants into your garden makes the overall ecosystem of your garden more productive. It increases biodiversity, efficiency, and lowering maintenance. This concept is one I’ve explored quite a bit during my research into permaculture. Taking a note from nature, you never see a single type of plant thrive in a perfectly straight row. There are always groups of plants growing together and contributing to the ecosystem. This is the model that we are trying to recreate by adding flowers to the garden.
So, what are the benefits of planting flowers in your vegetable garden?
- Attracting beneficial insects: Flowers themselves will help attract pollinators to your garden. I think it’s especially beneficial to have a range of blooms that pop up at different times. Staggering blooms will encourage insects to come hang out in your garden year round.
- Increases in soil biodiversity: Biodiversity in your garden has multifold benefits, but right now we are talking about just soil. Not only will adding flowers help to attract insects in the soil, but the individual mycorrhizal fungi surrounding each plant’s roots will also increase biodiversity and health in the soil.
- Soil protection: Planting flowers around your vegetable plantings can also help suppress weeds, and keep the soil cool and moist. They can work as a living mulch by shading the soil and preventing the heat of the sun from pulling the moisture out of it.
- Improving performance: Some say that planting certain plants near each other can improve growth and even the flavor of some vegetables.
Have I mentioned that flowers are pretty?
As a totally illogical benefit, flowers are pretty. Adding an array of flowers of different sizes, heights, and colors can create a visually appealing garden. We all know that finding things visually appealing is the number one way to attract attention, your own included. Creating a beautiful working garden is beneficial for the plants because you will want to spend more time there. Even if you’re lingering around having an evening cocktail, you will start to notice the little things that need care. You’ll probably reach down and pull a weed or two every time you stroll through. Soon those little moments will add up and spending time in the garden will resemble nothing close to actual work.
Ok, you’re sold. Now, what flowers do you plant?
Marigold – While marigolds are often touted for keeping pests away only French marigolds are toxic to nematodes, so they aren’t keeping a whole ton of pests away. However, I love them because of their continuous blooms (attracting pollinators), the way they fan out and smother nearby weeds, and the fact that they are edible. Not to mention they are super low maintenance and can be grown from seed without trouble.
Calendula – A medicinal herb (try it in salad or tea), that’s also good for your skin. Additionally, these plants are thought to prevent cabbage worms, moths, and a few others. Do note that some varieties can get up to 3 feet tall, so make sure that they are planted in an area that won’t over shade some plants.
Nasturtium – Another edible, that’s touted to make tomatoes taste better. I can’t guarantee that your tomatoes will taste better if they are planted near nasturtiums, but they have been proven to help prevent pests. They attract a number of types of pests, pulling them away from your sacred veggie plants.
Sweet Asylum – An effortless, low growing plant that works wonderfully to attract insects as well as create a living mulch.
Sunflowers – Aside from attracting insects, and providing shade sunflowers can actually pull heavy metals such as lead, arsenic, zinc, and others from the soil. Improving the health of your soil. Just don’t use these as mulch or compost since you’d be adding everything they pulled out right back in.
Flowers can be used as companion plants to strengthen your soil, mulch between plants, and attract insects. They are a wonderful asset to your garden. While I’ve listed a few great options to start with there are numerous other pairings that work well, and perhaps even better for your particular garden (since no two are the same). I encourage you to take some time to research and experiment to find what works best for you in your garden.