There’s nothing like a bountiful garden full of tasty vegetables. As gardeners, we always strive to do our best to make sure we get the best harvest possible. We fertilize, we water, we protect from pests.
But there’s one more thing you can add to your garden to take your harvests to the next level.
Gardeners of all skillsets often wonder: Do I need flowers in my vegetable garden?
And the answer to that question is absolutely, Yes, you need flowers in your garden.
Flowers are a beloved addition to any garden, and not just for their beauty. In this article, we’re going to take a look at why flowers are essential to vegetable gardening and how to use them to your advantage.
Why You Should Always Plant Flowers in Your Garden
The primary reason you’ll want to always companion plant flowers in your garden is pollinators. Pollinators are a gardener’s best friend. Pollinators don’t just have to be insects, either.
A pollinator is any animal (bird, mammal, or insect) that helps carry pollen from the stamen to the stigma of a plant. Some examples of pollinators include bees, hummingbirds, butterflies, and moths.
Many varieties of fruit and vegetable cannot survive without a helping hand from pollinators. Do you grow squash, melons, cucumbers, or eggplants?
You have pollinators to thank for that food on your table because they only pollinate with the help of these helpful creatures.
Take bees, for example, they’re one of the most identifiable and iconic pollinating insects. 70 out of the 100 crops are pollinated with the help of bees- that accounts for about 90% of the world’s nutrition!
Flowers can not only attract pollinators, but they can repel pests. Nothing strikes more fear in a gardener’s heart than seeing pests reigning terror on their beloved vegetable garden.
Adding flowers that repel these pesky creatures is a safe, natural alternative to pest control. No harmful chemicals are required; just smart planning.
Pests come in all varieties. Just like pollinators, pests can be birds, insects, or mammals.
They can feed off of either the foliage of the plant or the fruit itself; almost always leaving devastating and irreparable damage to the crops. Examples of pests include various species of beetles, worms, and even deer.
What Flowers Should I Plant Around My Vegetable Garden?
So now that we’ve gone over what makes planting flowers so great, let’s talk about what flowers you should plant around our vegetable garden. As we’ve discussed, planting flowers can serve two primary purposes in the garden: to attract pollinators and to repel pests.
What flowers attract the most pollinators?
- Echinacea/Coneflower: Echinacea is an easygoing flower to plant in your garden. This variety is tolerant of most growing conditions, and can even survive in poor soil and drought, so you don’t have to dedicate even more time to maintaining these flowers.
They are hardy to USDA zones 3 through 9, giving it a good range for gardeners in varying climates. Its cone-shaped dome in the center primarily attracts butterflies to the garden. As an added bonus, it also repels deer from the garden too.
- Perennial Salvia: Also known as sage, this flowering herb is a magnet to pollinators such as bees and butterflies.
Salvia is an ideal choice for gardeners who live in hot climates. They are hardy to USDA zones 5 through 10 and are also heat and drought tolerant.
In addition, they can conveniently be planted in containers and moved around to different parts of the garden if need be.
- Celosia: This Mediterranean native is another excellent choice in attracting pollinators such as bees and butterflies.
Celosia is perfect for gardeners living in some of the hottest regions, due to it being perennial to USDA zones 10 through 12. However, it can be treated as an annual in cooler climates as well.
What flowers keep pests away?
On the surface, marigolds are famous for their striking beauty, but these fluffy flowers are a secret weapon gardeners use against pests.
The distinct scent marigolds give off repels a variety of garden pests, including mosquitos and cabbage worms. Marigolds can also attract pest-fighting insects such a ladybugs, who love to make a meal out of aphids. Marigolds are relatively easy to grow, their main requirement is a full day of sunshine.
They are heat tolerant and hardy to USDA zones 3 through 11.
A beautiful container-friendly plant, nasturtiums are a fantastic pest repellent in anyone’s garden.
Nasturtiums repel aphids from the garden, simply planting them around the garden or keeping small pots of nasturtium will help keep nasty aphids away from your crops.
Nasturtiums are perennial to hot USDA zones such as 10 and 11, but can still be planted annually in lower zones. In addition to pest repellent, nasturtiums have also been known to attract pollinators such as hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies.
Petunias are a godsend to vegetable gardeners of all kinds. Not only are they noted for their good looks, but their ability to repel many pests such as squash bugs, aphids, and tomato hornworms.
Petunias are perennial to the warm climates of zones 9, 10, and 11 (though they can be grown as an annual in cooler climates). There’s not much to do when it comes to petunias.
Simply plant them next to your crops and let it do its thing! Petunias are excellent protectors of brassicas, tomatoes, peppers, and more.
What Flowers Should Not Be Planted Near Vegetables?
Are flowers an amazing addition to any garden? Absolutely. But unfortunately, not all flowers give you the same benefits when it comes to growing vegetables. Let’s take a look at some flowers that should not be planted near vegetables.
Gladiolus are a beautiful flower, though their presence may inhibit the growth of some vegetables, namely legumes. If you’re a gardener with beans or peas in their garden, you may want to plant your gladiolus in another location away from the legumes.
Tulips, (along with other bulbs such as daffodils), are a gorgeous addition to the home, but not when they’re near vegetables.
If you insist on having tulips in your garden, please ensure that they have their own designated growing space. Tulips contain toxic alkaloids that are dangerous to humans.
The bulb that tulips grows from is especially toxic, and is known to cause stomach pain, dizziness, and convulsions.
The tulip bulbs strongly resemble onion varieties. There have been unfortunate cases of people and animals unknowingly ingesting these bulbs mistaking them for an onion.
Oleander is a beautiful flowering evergreen shrub, but it really has no place in an edible garden. Despite its immeasurable beauty, oleander is highly poisonous.
All parts of the oleander flower are toxic, from the seeds to the leaves. Its poison is capable of killing a small child, and causing terrible intestinal distress in adult humans. Oleander is a flower you do not want near any vegetables.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with keeping sunflowers in your garden. It really is a matter of where you keep sunflowers in the garden that makes a huge difference to your vegetables.
As we all know, the sunflower is an exceptionally tall plant. Tall flowers such as sunflowers can often block out sunlight, which is not ideal for any vegetable plants.
Sunflowers can still be a part of your garden, but it would be best to make sure it’s not depriving other plants of sun exposure.
Including flowers in your vegetable garden doesn’t just give everything a pop of color, but the introduction of flowers can be beneficial to plant health as well.
Everyone should have flowers in their vegetable garden, it is a necessity to introducing pollinators as well as repelling pests. Having a variety of beneficial flowers in your garden plays a role in increasing the yield you get from your harvest.
I suggest planting flowers in your vegetable garden as soon as possible for the best garden result. Trust me, your plants will thank you.