Interplanting Flowers and Herbs in the Vegetable Garden
There is no rule that says vegetables and flowers can't mix. In fact, the vegetable garden will benefit greatly from the addition of some flowers and herbs. It's not just aesthetics that make flowers and herbs welcome in the vegetable garden. Interplanting flowers and herbs offers several beneficial features that can protect your vegetables from insect pests and even make them more productive.
Benefits of Interplanting Flowers and Herbs in the Vegetable Garden
Attract Pollinators - Vegetables don't always have the showiest flowers. To make sure the bees can find your vegetable plants, interplant flowers with high nectar concentrations and / or in shades of blue, yellow or white. Some choices: cosmos, larkspur, mints, sunflowers, sweet peas and zinnias.
Attract Beneficial Insects - There are insects that are good to have in your garden, like ladybugs, lacewings, parasitic wasps and ground beetles. As with every other insect, beneficial insects have certain preferences in plants. Interplant their favorites and you'll eventually have insects patrolling your bad insects. Parsley, dill, coriander and flowers from the aster family are especially good for attracting beneficial insects.
Repel Garden Pest Insects - OK, this is a debatable point. But it's worth further study and why not experiment in your garden? Some to try:
Anise Hyssop repels Cabbage Moths
Borage repels Tomato Hornworm
Catmint repels Aphids, Colorado Potato Beetles and Squash Bugs
Geraniums (Pelargonium) repel Japanese Beetles
Pot Marigolds repel Asparagus Beetles
Sage repels Cabbage Moths and Carrot Rust Flies
Trap Crops - If you can't repel a pest, throw it a sacrificial plant. This is often accomplished with another vegetable crop, such as surrounding cabbage with a trap crop of collards to draw the diamondback moth. The pest insect will congregate on the trap crop, which is eventually pulled and disposed of. The most famous flower trap crop is probably the use of nasturtiums to attract aphids. Nicotiana is also good for this.
Biodiversity - In short, what all this interplanting is leading to is a very old gardening concept of biodiversity or planting a wide variety of things rather than a single, monocrop. Confuse insect pests by interplanting things they love with things they won't touch. The symbiotic relationships between different plant species is still the subject of much study.
Cutting Garden Out of View - One final bonus of interplanting flowers in the vegetable garden is the ability to place your cutting garden where it won't be judged for its design. If you want to plant , black-eyed Susan, celosia, salvia and zinnias in straight rows that will always be have cut down, interplant them with the vegetables where looks don't count as much as function. Let them do dual duty as cut flowers and pollinator lures.
Interplanting vegetables, herbs and flowers is how the original cottage garden style evolved. Sectioning off gardens for specific types of plants was a luxury of the rich and leisured. Besides all of the benefits outlined above, if you are short of space or time, interplanting could be the answer to your gardening dilemma.
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