With the warm weather finally arriving, gardeners across the country are getting outside and preparing their garden beds for planting. It is an important time of year for the avid gardener because what you do now can have a significant impact on how your plants do for the rest of the season. If you’re like most, you probably have separate plots for your flowers and your vegetables. What many gardeners don’t realize is that you can plant flowers with vegetables and it can actually help to produce a better yield and a healthier crop.
Plant Flowers With Vegetables
Companion planting is the word on every gardening enthusiast’s tongue lately, and for good reason. After years of monocropping and selecting plants with esthetics as the primary deciding factor, we are now returning to the traditional wisdom of planting the way nature intended.
Companion planting is putting certain plants together that are mutually beneficial- that improve each other’s health and yields, like when you plant flowers with vegetables. Some plants attract beneficial insects that help protect a companion, some act as repellents, and some even simply provide shade to others if needed .
Other benefits of companion include :
- Increased crop yields, even if one crop fails due to weather, pests, or disease.
- Protecting more delicate crops from harsh weather or pests,
- Attracting pollinators like bees to your garden.
Flowers can be highly beneficial to a vegetable garden, and Maggie Saska, a plant production specialist at Rodale Institute organic farm, spoke with goodhousekeeping.com to offer amazing tips for how to effectively incorporate flowers into your vegetable garden.
Tip #1: Pay Attention to Bloom Time
Companion planting with flowers will only work if you choose flowers that bloom at the same time as the vegetables they’re planted beside. If you plant flowers that bloom two weeks after your vegetables do, there will be no benefit to the veggies.
Read the seed packet to find out how soon after planting the flowers will bloom so you can sync up your garden’s schedule. She also suggests planting a variety of flowers so that your garden is continuously blooming all season long .
Tip #2: Shape is Important
The shape of the flower makes it easier or harder for pollinators to access their nectar or pollen. Bees, which are highly beneficial insects for your garden, prefer flowers that have composite shape, like zinnias, cosmos, daisies, sunflowers, and purple coneflower .
Tip #3: Spread the Love
Instead of planting your flowers all in one spot, Saska recommends spreading them out throughout your garden to have the maximum benefit. Some choose to plant a row of veggies followed by a row of flowers, others choose interspace the flowers within a single row.
You can even get creative, and use flowers to create a border around your vegetable patch, or plant them in such a way as to indicate when one vegetable crop ends and another begins.
Tip #4: Height Matters
Most vegetables grow lower to the ground, and so if you plant flowers that are much taller than them, they may not get enough sunlight. Conversely, there are some more delicate crops, such as lettuces, that prefer a little bit of shade, so planting taller flowers next to them could keep them from cooking out in the hot sun .
Tip #5: Start Simple
Saska’s final tip is to not make it too complicated for yourself, especially if you are new to the world of companion planting. To make it easier, she suggests starting with annuals, since they grow easily and produce a lot of blooms. Given that they have to be replanted every year, they also make it easier to change the layout of your garden from season to season if you choose to do so.
She notes, however, that native perennials do a much better job at attracting native bees, so she cautions against omitting them from your garden entirely. She recommends using the xerces society as a resource to find out which plants grow natively in your area .
Keep Reading: Should Every School Have a Year-Round Gardening Program?
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