Flowers to grow with vegetables
Companion planting is a concept whereby the growth of some plants benefits others, e.g. flowers and vegetables, which is becoming more and more popular all the time. Certain flowers are planted next to, or among, rows of vegetables in order to attract beneficial insects like bees (both bumblebees and honeybees), butterflies and moths to assist with pollination or especially to keep pests out. This category includes ground beetles, lacewings and hoverflies.
Other benefits include providing shade and additional nutrients. A good tip to ensure that bees (the best pollinators) find your veggie patch is to plant flower species offering high nectar concentrations such as cosmos, zinnias, clover (often used in organic farming as it provides good nitrogen for the soil) and blue lace flowers near or among the vegetables during all seasons. The benefit to your fruit orchard or vegetable garden is immeasurable. At the same time, the bees will pollinate your flowers and do their bit to ensure spring comes in a beautiful blooming blaze!
An added advantage of planting certain flowers to help keep pests at bay is that it helps to reduce the use of pesticides: you’ll find more beneficial bugs, bugs which in turn will help to control the bad ones – all in all, a good symbiotic arrangement.
To choose the best flowers to help you yield good crops is often a matter of preference since there are many good, beneficial species available. So, what follows here is a list of 9 of the most popular flowers to grow with vegetables (all of which have a proven track record):
This plant is often referred to as the ‘wonder-drug of the companion plant world’. There are a number of varieties such as the French and Mexican marigold, also the Stinking Roger. The French marigold specifically produces a pesticide like chemical to repel unwanted bugs. The bright blooms attract hoverflies, bees and butterflies while their strong scent drives away the bad guys. This flower assists in chasing away nematodes, cabbage root fly and unwanted beetles. You want to plant marigolds near your courgettes, tomatoes, potatoes and cucumbers.
These pretty, colourful plants (edible too; popular in salads) help to ward off beetles and green flies. Plant them near beans, squash, pumpkins, tomatoes, radishes and fruit trees where they will repel, amongst others, cabbage worm. The bright blooms, once again, will attract hummingbirds and bees to assist with pollination.
It is said that this tall (in certain areas as high as 8 ft.) flowering plant was grown in the Americas as a companion for corn/maize even before any Europeans stepped onto these shores. They will also assist tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers by repelling green flies. Low-growing veggies that require good shade will also benefit from growing underneath these tall plants.
A herb known for its effectiveness to combat hornworms and cabbage worm, it is known to be a good companion for tomatoes and all varieties of the squash family and strawberries. Their blooms attract bees and moths (good for pollination) and wasps (that will kill some pests).
This perennial herb helps to repel various insects. Plant it near onions and cabbage. Note: you can brew your own herbal tea from this plant.
Onion and Garlic
Although we grow these essentially to harvest them, it is good to know that allowing them to, sometimes, develop their flower heads as they will attract hoverflies.
The geranium is great at attracting leafhoppers and other harmful bugs away from peppers, grapes and tomatoes. Plant them near your crops: they’re beautiful to look at, demand very little attention and they’ll assist you in warding off harmful elements.
Beautiful and beneficial near onions, for example, this little flower will help repel slugs, ants and snails.
This climbing plant will help keep your spinach, chard, tomatoes and lettuces free from nasty bugs and lice.
Of course, there are many other flowering plants that will be of great benefit to the farmer, such as the cornflower, some dense bushes, including the ever-popular lavender, to complete the above list. Speak to your local nursery, farmers and friends for more information; you’ll be surprised at what knowledge exists about companion planting.