Why You Should Always Plant Flowers in Your Vegetable Patch
If you’re still growing flowers and vegetables on opposite sides of your garden, it’s time to rethink your garden plan. The accompanying planting of flowers and vegetables in the same beds is a strategy with which professional growers increase yields and keep the harvest healthy. This is easy and beneficial even for beginners.
Maggie Saska, a crop production specialist at the Rodale Institute’s organic farm, says the main reason for growing flowers in your vegetable patch is the attraction of native bees and other beneficial insects. Without bees stopping by your garden to eat nectar and exchange pollen, you will have a rather disappointing harvest.
If you plant bee-friendly flowers near your vegetables, you can also combat pollinator populations and biodiversity. You can also plant flowers to attract butterflies, hummingbirds, and other desirable species.
Ready to start? Before you order your seeds, here are five tips that Saska said are important when choosing flower types for your vegetable patch.
Pay attention to the flowering period
For planting companions with flowers to work, you need to choose flowers that bloom at the same time as your vegetables. If the variety you planted does not flower until two weeks after your peas bloom, your peas are out of luck.
Seed packs show you how quickly flowers bloom after planting so you can sync your planting schedule. However, it is a good idea to plant a variety of flowers to ensure that you get continuous blooms throughout the growing season.
Consider the flower shape
The flowers that attract hummingbirds are not the same as those that attract bees or useful wasps. The shape of the flower makes it easier or more difficult for different species to access nectar and pollen. To attract bees and other pollinators, Saska recommends choosing flowers with a composite shape such as zinnias, cosmos, daisies, sunflowers, and purple coneflowers.
Place them out
Sprinkle flowers in the garden instead of planting them in a lump. How you do it is entirely up to you. You can plant a row of vegetables followed by a row of flowers, or you can place them within the same row. Consider becoming strategic and using flowers to break up a row to indicate where your peppers end and your hot peppers begin. Or plant flowers to form a border around the outside of the bed.
Think about the height
You don’t want your flowers to compete with your vegetables for sunlight. Therefore, choose mainly low-growing flowers. However, some plants (such as salads) can benefit from some shade in the summer months. Therefore, it is sometimes useful to use a larger variety.
Saska recommends beginners to start working with annual flowers because they grow easily and produce lots of flowers. You also don’t have to worry about them appearing in the same place every year if you want to change your garden design. (Start with these annual flowers that you can easily grow from seeds.)
However, native perennials are one of the best ways to attract local bees. So don’t let them out of your garden entirely. The Xerces Society provides a great regional guide to pollinator-friendly plants (mostly perennials) and includes information on flowering time, height, and watering needs.