Gone are the days when vegetable gardens were planted in neat, perfectly measured rows that would please the toughest drill sergeant. Flowers, which don’t take well to precision planting, were relegated to their own beds.
These days, organic gardeners understand that vegetables and flowers can be the best of friends. Like true friendships, one complements the other, and life is better for both, which means increased yield for you.
Careful companion planting uses space more efficiently. For example, tall plants provide shade for tender, low-growing plants, while vining or low-growing plants serve as living mulch.
Certain blooming plants possess various qualities that tend to repel pests. Some, known as trap plants, are brave souls that sacrifice their own wellbeing by drawing pests away from susceptible vegetables. Others help organic gardeners by attracting beneficial insects that feast on veggie-destroying marauders.
One of the best things about planting a few flowers in the vegetable garden, apart from their obvious color and beauty, is their ability to attract fleets of bees and other critical pollinators.
Companion Planting Flowers and Vegetables
Companion planting is one part science and two parts pure experimentation. Some flower-veggie partnerships may work for you, and others may not. To find out, rely on combinations that make sense for your gardening plan. Include a few flowers that bring you pleasure, and you can’t go wrong.
With their happy-go-lucky nature and bright yellow, orange and gold flowers, nasturtiums are one of the most effective trap plants in the garden. The plants excrete an oil that aphids and other pests adore, which means they quickly lose interest in your beans, corn, cucumbers and tomatoes.
Like nasturtiums, petunias are a trap crop that draws aphids, leafhoppers and beetles away from plants like squash, asparagus and cucumbers.
Sunflowers take up a lot of space, but they’re fantastic if you have a sunny spot where their shade won’t be a problem. Birds love sunflower seeds, and they also like to perch on the tall plants. While they’re in the neighborhood, they’re likely to swoop down and scoop up a few beetles, grasshoppers and cabbageworms. As an added benefit, many gardeners believe sunflowers draw thrips away from veggies, especially peppers.
If you plant only one type of companion flower in your garden, make it marigolds. Marigolds are easy to get along with, and the bright spot of color is irresistible to hoverflies and bees. More importantly, the roots excrete a powerful natural chemical that is fatal to nematodes and other underground pests.
Marigolds are beneficial for nearly any veggie in the garden, especially onions, garlic, melons, corn, tomatoes, squash and radishes. If rabbits are munching on your veggies, a row of the strong-scented flowers may be enough to keep them at bay.
Some gardeners swear that dianthus, also known as pinks, help draw slugs from your tender vegetable plants. If slugs are a problem in your garden, dianthus is definitely worth a try.
The bright color of calendula attracts ladybugs, lacewings and other aphid-eating insects, and some gardeners say calendula draw earwigs away from corn and other veggies. Calendula is especially beneficial when planted in the vicinity of kale.
Zinnias draw pollinators and predatory insects like ladybugs to the vegetable garden. Additionally, they attract hummingbirds, which aren’t only fun to watch, but reduce the numbers of many flying pests, especially pesky mosquitoes.
What companion flowers would you add to this list? Share your thoughts in the section below: