8 Flowers you need in your vegetable garden

Many people plant flowers in their vegetable garden. There are lots of reasons to do this from companion planting, attracting pollinators to them just being pretty! I've been doing it for as long as I've gardened. Honestly, I never liked marigolds all that much, but my Pappap said you had to plant them in the garden so I have for the last 30 years. He was right!


Many gardeners find that they can discourage harmful pests, without losing the beneficial allies by just adding flowers. Flowers also add visual interest because vegetable plants are mostly green. There is honestly not a lot of color in cucumber, bean, pea or broccoli plants! (just to name a few) Planting flowers amid the tomatoes is a good way to dip your toes into the pool of companion planting.

Companion planting is placing different plants close together that enhance each other's growth, discourage pests and diseases, or have some other beneficial effect. Companion planting can be an important part of an integrated pest management system.


Companion planting is used to protect plants from insects that like to snack on them like aphids, tomato hornworms or squash bugs. Obviously flowers attract pollinators like bees and butterflies which every garden needs. These are really important, otherwise you'll be out there hand pollinating the squash and nobody wants to do that! 

Certain flowers repel certain insects and you would plant those flowers by the plants the insects would cause damage to, hoping the insects would stay away from both.

Flowers you need in your vegetable garden


Flowers can both attract and repel pests. For instance marigolds are bright and attract pollinators, but they deter many pest insects. It's believed that the pungent scent of the marigolds discourages many pests from visiting the garden, not only bugs but the furry kind too.

I found I kinda like these really big ones...

Huge marigold growing in garden

Marigolds:

As mentioned, they will attract pollinators and repel harmful insects like and deter pests like rabbits & cats. Marigold roots can help with nematodes. Many gardeners plant marigolds near tomatoes to repel nematodes and other pests on the nearby plants. Marigolds themselves get very few pests except for the occasional mite or aphid.

I make a marigold pest spray that works really well for keeping bugs away.

Calendula:

This is a type of marigold but not quite the same. It looks more like a daisy and is referred to as pot marigold. This is another flower that will draw the aphids away from your vegetables. Calendula creates a sticky sap (the stems even feel sticky when you pick them) that traps the aphids keeping them from getting to your other  plants.

It also attracts bees and butterflies in droves. Calendula grows well in cool weather and self seeds well, so it gets itself started early in spring when other flowers are still dormant.

Nasturtium:

This plant grows in poor soil, so it's a great plant to put in difficult areas where nothing else likes to grow. There are different varieties, some climb and some are more bush like so you can find one to fit your location. The brightly colored flowers attract pollinators but it's strong scent keeps pests away. 

However, aphids also love to eat this plant. Now that could be a good thing as it will draw the aphids away from your other crops! Nasturtium makes a good companion plant for squash, cucumbers and melons. Some varieties are edible.

Chamomile:

Chamomile attracts predatory insects like wasps and ladybugs. They also attract hoverflies and deters mosquitos, which is great for me while I'm out in the garden. Chamomile is easy to grow but can get out of control, self seeding like crazy! 

Sweet alyssum:

This is another flower that attracts hoverflies which love to feast on aphids. It is often referred to as a living mulch because it has very shallow roots which help to hold the soil in place. It's very nice at the base of tall plants like sunflowers or peas since it's full and low to the ground, keeping the soil from drying out quickly in the sun.

Lavender:

Lavender is one of the few flowers I can leave unfenced with no worry that the deer or rabbits will bother it. In fact, they don't even come close to it! It seems like anything growing around it is safe too. Growing lavender is really easy, especially if you start from a small plant. 

Lavender is a perennial and does not like to be moved, so make sure you put it in a permanent location. 

Sunflowers:

Growing sunflowers in your garden helps to repel whiteflies and aphids. Sunflowers are great because they come in all different heights and sizes. The taller the sunflower the less ground space they take up so you can cram tall ones into small spaces, or fill spaces with shorter varieties. 

Sunflowers tend to attract birds and squirrels after they have gone to seed so you may want to remove the seed heads as they dry to prevent this.


Zinnias:


Zinnias attract pollinators like bees, butterflies and even hummingbirds! Hummingbirds eat whiteflies, so that definitely a good thing. Zinnias also attract predatory wasps which destroy pests like tomato hornworms. 

They also attract guinea fowl apparently but that's more a 'the garden gate was open' sort of thing. lol


How to plant flowers with your vegetables


There are a few different ways you can add flowers to your vegetable garden. 

Intersperse flowers with other plants: 

Put the flowers in between vegetable plants. There's two ways to do this, either an every other one situation or a row of the beneficial flower next to a row of the vegetables that need a little help. 

Planting marigolds between each zucchini plant to discourage squash bugs works for me. Have an aphid problem? Plant chamomile between the crops that are affected!

Flower borders around the garden: 

Some gardeners like to keep their flowers at the outside border of the garden and the food plants on the inside. I do see the benefit of that, but I'm just not that organized...plus I often let volunteer plants stay where they want! Borders do make for a more organized picture perfect garden though.

Fill in blank spots with flowers: 

This is probably my favorite method. I just fill in any spots between vegetable plants with the appropriate flower plant. I add more flowers in the bare spots after the garlic comes out in July. Add flowers on the ends of rows, or where a plant fails or needed pulled out. Or just at the bottom of tall things like corn, sunflowers and at the base of the pea trellis...because these all have very small footprints.


However you decide to add the flowers into your garden, I think you'll find they make a big differnec in your pest problems. Plus they're just so nice to look at!


Have you decided what to plant in your garden yet? Click here to see how I decide!.

~L

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1 comment:

  1. Here's a crazy question....how do you grow marigolds? I have tried over the years to grow them and they always die. I made 5 new raised beds this year and planted marigolds in with my tomatoes as a companion plant as well as sticking a few here and there in the other beds. I figured in new soil they would do good. All of them are dying. I just can't figure out what I'm doing wrong. Can you help?

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