...if you have a backyard and a kitchen, this blog might be for you!

a chronicle of tips and recipes on everything from gardening to canning and baking your produce, even if you're planted in suburbia...in fact, especially if you are planted in suburbia.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

What's with the Flowers? (Part II)

A friend said, "So you've convinced me that I need to add flowers to my vegetable garden, but I'm very short on space. What would be the most efficient choices for the benefit of my garden?"

The question is a valid one, as many of us are limited on space and hate to sacrifice vegetable space for flowers. The good news is, sometimes an herb can offer the same benefit as a flower, not to mention the fact that some flowers are in themselves edible! In a nutshell, here are a few of your primary purposes for growing flowers. First, you want to attract insects that will pollinate the garden. Sunflowers and zinnias are well know for this purpose. There is some debate as to whether sunflowers affect the soil negatively, stunting nearby vegetables, so I grow mine along a nearby fence rather than directly in the garden, just to be on the safe side. Check the seed pack when you buy them. Some feature edible seeds and some don't. My baseball-playing sons begged me to grow ones with edible seeds. We'll see how that turns out.

A second purpose for herbs and flowers involves managing the insect population. You want to attract beneficial insects (those that keep the bad insects at bay) as well as ones that keep the bad insects preoccupied. These are called trap crops. For attractors, dill and parsley are herbs I've grown quite successfully. Flowers like asters are said to function well, too.

As for controlling the pest population, nasturtiums (pictured lower left corner below) are great for trapping aphids and keeping them away from other plants. Plus, nasturtium blossoms are edible! Check out the following website for a nasturtium pesto recipe! I haven't tried it, but it looks interesting.

I mention only a few offerings on a topic that could fill volumes, so rather than re-invent the wheel, I'm linking to a few websites that offer alphabetized lists in "companion planting" guides. Look up the vegetable you want to plant and check for advice on both the good and the bad choices for nearby plantings.

Here are three possibilities:




(If this topic interests you, this last link in particular offers more information on the science of companion planting as well as more reasons for using it than I detailed. If garden space is an issue, it is a topic well worth the study!)

Are you new to this form of expansion in your garden plot? If I've learned anything from gardening, it is this: the garden is ever a work in progress, inspiring patient adjustment. Try one flowering companion one season and evaluate its benefits. The next year, try another. Most of the additions I mentioned grow agreeably even for the novice gardener.

All this talk of space-conserving gardens now has me mulling over another seemingly frivolous topic. (By now I hope to have proven that flowers weren't a frivolous topic.) I'm discovering that with a little planning, I could warrant a more picturesque way of describing my garden. No more will I say when asked I have: "...just a little veggie patch in the back yard." I may be on my way to claiming the title Cottage Gardener. I'll do a little research and share what I find.

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