How many flowers do you grow in your vegetable garden?
In the past flowers haven’t always been at the forefront of my mind when planning my growing space but in recent times I feel there has been a bit of a renewed interest in growing your own flowers. In fact it was only recently that I watched with intrigue as Monty Don planted up a ‘cutting garden’.
Maybe it’s because my childhood memories of the ‘veg patch’ and ‘garden’ have been defined into very separate areas?
What a lovely idea though, flowers growing in your boarders or balcony designed to create a pretty outdoor environment and a healthy source of food and shelter for various wildlife plus varieties to grow separately as you would any other annual vegetables to ‘crop’ and provide your home with beautiful blooms! We saw exactly the same idea at River Cottage where they had separate flower, herb, vegetable and fruit beds. It caught my interest then as it does now!
Our allotment rules require us to cultivate 80% of the plot for food growing purposes only and once you add a few paths and a pond there’s scarce room left for flowers but I’ve managed to squeeze a few in!
I grow a combination of cutting flowers and companion plants. Here’s what I’m growing and why…
Calendula – Pollinator
I plant them between my tomatoes, squash, peppers and courgettes etc. Module sow your seeds in February and by the time you need them you should have plants big enough to plant alongside anything that needs pollinating at a rate of 1 x2 of these gorgeous sunny flowers.
Marigold – Deterrent
It’s the smell here which discourages whitefly. I intersow between my brassica’s and tomatoes. Slugs LOVE them too so at times they also become a sacrificial crop! Follow same sowing and planting times as Calendula.
The roots of this flower are supposedly poisonous to perennial weeds and I’m hoping to kill off a patch of Couch Grass. It’s the first time I’m trialling it but so far it has been easy to propagate and is not fussy. I lost a few to an early slug attack but it’s growing strongly now with a super pungent smell. I’m hoping the smell will have the same effect as French Marigolds as an added bonus!
Nasturtium – Pollinator and deterrent
And you can eat them! Many people (me included) believe nasturtiums to be the king of the companion plants. Whether you grow them up a trellis, along a fence or as a bush, I defy anyone who does not raise a smile at the handsome carpet of lemon, orange or even crimson red flowers gently buzzing in the breeze from the many bumble bees filling their tummies! Cabbage White butterflies also lay their eggs on nasturtiums which should in turn keep your brassicas safe! Blackfly also LOVE these gorgeous flowers so when you see an infestation it’s actually a good thing as it means they’re not on your beans! Pinch off the affected area and deposit in the compost bin! SUPER easy to propagate, quick growing and self-seeding. If all this wasn’t enough, the hard working little plant will also provide enough ground cover to mulch and supress your weeds at the same time!
Nicotiana Tabacum – Deterrent
I’ve read that the powerful smell of these flowers deters cabbage white butterfly away from brassicas so I’m growing it all around my cabbage bed! The plan is to also have enough for cut flowers but it hasn’t bloomed yet.
It’s always nice to have a little borage in a G&T. I freeze the pretty lilac flowers into ice cubes so that I have some out of season too. Bees and butterflies love Borage.
Last year I found that this pretty ground spreading plant added the earliest and last splash of colour to the plot. The delicate looking plant came through a soggy winter and bloomed again super early this year which in turn attracted a lot of beneficial insects to the plot. Mine tumbles out of the herb bed but beware any slugs that like to congregate underneath the dense foliage. Either slug patrol on a regular basis or choose your spot wisely!
The Cut Flower Bed
I’m growing Lavender, Cosmos, Verbena and Scabios and Sweet Peas for my cut flowers. I’m actually growing sweet peas up the bean poles as they not only look really pretty amongst all the green leaves, they attract pollinators to your bean flowers therefore giving you a bigger yield.
…..and last but not least, the annual sunflower challenge is coming along nicely!