Increase Fruit and Vegetable Production
Did you know that planting flowers in your vegetable garden will help increase fruit and vegetable production? It’s true. Some flowers and vegetables have a symbiotic relationship. This means that they protect or encourage each other to be healthier and have greater growth. This is because groupings of plants can increase local humidity, reduce evaporation, retain soil moisture, and diversify soil nutrients and microbial activity. Plants can also encourage a symbiotic relationship with beneficial insects such as ladybeetles. Using flowers or other plants in this way is called companion planting. If you haven’t yet discovered the benefits of companion planting for yourself, I invite you to give it a try.
Flowers Attract Pollinators to the Vegetable Garden
Flowers attract pollinators like bees, butterflies, hummingbirds, moths, and other insects. Pollinators are obviously crucial to a thriving garden. More pollinators mean more produce throughout the growing season. Flowers also beautify your garden space and can be used as cut flowers to beautify the dinner table.
If you are seeing many blooms that do not start developing into fruit, there may be a reason for that. For example, cucumbers often only set male flowers in the first blooms set. For plants that are not self-pollinating, male and female flowers must be present to be pollinated by a pollinating insect.
In the example of cucumbers, you must wait until the second set of blooms, where both the male and female flowers will be present. “Perfect” flowers, such as can be found with tomatoes or peppers, have both the male and female parts required to complete pollination. A shake of the flower due to insect activity or wind will cause pollination to occur.
Vegetables that rely on pollinating insects include squashes, pumpkin, melons, eggplant, okra, and cucumbers. These plants, some of which are often called vegetables (by association, not botanically), are the fruit (mature ovary) of the flower and contain seeds. True vegetables often only require pollination if you are planning on saving the seeds. This is because the vegetable is a harvest of the roots, stems, shoots, or leaves. Examples include beets, broccoli, carrots, lettuce, mustard, radish, and turnips.
Flowers in the Vegetable Garden to Deter Pests
Some plants will deter pests, making them incredibly valuable not only for the health of your plants but for your enjoyment as well. I love gardens and plants, especially adding some water features here and there. Unfortunately, plants and water are a magnet for bugs and pests throughout the garden. However, they can be controlled and deterred by using a variety of well-placed plants. Here you can find a list of plants for targeting a variety of pests. You can find another list specifically targeting mosquitoes in our “Plants Naturally Repel Mosquitoes” article.
Asters - Deter many insects and pair well with sunflowers for an assortment of color.
Calendula - Has some antifungal and antimicrobial properties. Deter asparagus beetles and tomato hornworms.
Geraniums - Great for cabbage and leafy greens. Known to repel cabbage worms, corn earworms, and Japanese beetles.
Lavender - Does not like to grow near mint or impatiens. Does especially well with roses and herbs. Repels many insects.
Marigolds - Many insects, especially Mexican bean beetles and nematodes. Great with tomatoes, pepper, potato, and eggplant.
Nasturtiums - Deter aphids, squash bugs, striped pumpkin beetles, and whiteflies. Do well near beans, cabbage, and cucumbers.
Petunias - Does well near tomatoes, beans, squash, or potatoes. Repel many insects and attract hummingbirds.
Tansy - Deter flying insects, ants, and beetles. Does well near potatoes and squash.
Flowers to Improve Soil Quality and Nutrients
Whether you are growing flowers or vegetables, it is important to protect and improve your soil from year to year. One of the ways to do that is by growing a protective and working living mulch. A living mulch can help control weeds, retain moisture, reduce erosion, encourage healthy microbe activity, increase organic material, and attract pollinators, as mentioned above. While you can and should utilize spring or fall cover crops, you can continue to utilize them in the form of a living mulch throughout the growing season as well.
Sunflowers - have deep root systems help pull up and keep water in the root region. Its roots also decompose into organic matter when the plant is cut at ground level. The foliage may be cut and dispersed to decompose on the surface over winter.
Sweet Pea - nitrogen fixing legume.
Sweet Alyssum - groundcover and living mulch.
Borage - improves water drainage and compact soils as a groundcover, is edible.
Bachelor Buttons - living mulch.