When I first started our garden here we had a clean slate. As space is limited, I vowed to only grow things we could eat. It was a pretty big pipe dream, and whilst the majority of things we grow here are edible, I have let that 100% edible garden slide a little bit. However, I still want plants, that if not edible, are functional in our organic garden.
The one thing that we’ve started integrating a lot more into our vegetable gardens is flowers. I always used to avoid flowers, simply because space was limited and I couldn’t afford it for something that was pretty over something we could eat. I mostly started growing flowers for my daughter, as a toddler, she loved picking, organising and playing with flowers. Then after interviewing an entomologist inside our Dirt Lovers community I realised how integral flowers had been to the success of our veggie patch.
Why you should plant flowers in your vegetable garden
We did a lot of talking on companion planting, and the one of the key things we realised is that flowers offer so much to beneficial insects which help balance out the bad insects.
Flowers attract beneficials to your space, they provide nectar and pollen to beneficial insects and thirdly they provide shelter and protection for them. The trifecta of attracting insects which keep everything in balance and make our job a lot easier in having a healthy thriving vegetable garden.
How you can integrate flowers in to your patch
The most simplest thing is to ensure when your planting your garden that you include some form of flower amongst your other vegetables. If like me, space is of a premium, you can try hanging pots of flowers, or containers scattered around nearby.
We have a dividing bed between our vegetable garden that I call my insectary - here I focus on planting flowers only in between our main growing spaces. It has worked really well, we’ve had many generations of praying mantis hatch in this
Flowers can be edible as well!
When I was on my quest for 100% edible garden I did a lot of research on what was edible, I had a lot of inspiration from Sarah at Basilea Herbs. I found a Jasmine that is edible. I found that dahlia bulbs are actually edible. There were so many unexpected flowers that were edible - even roses and lavender! We have an entire collection of resources of edible flowers inside our Dirt Lovers membership if you want to expand your edible flower knowledge.
Letting things go to seed just for the flowers
If you’re still not convinced that flowers are not worth the space in your vegetable garden then let your vegetables go full cycle, even if you’re not interested in collecting seed (who wouldn’t be, it’s basically free plants). Things like dill and coriander are like homing beacons to ladybugs. Asian greens and mustards get big love from Australian Native bees. And regular honey bees LOVE basil flowers.
Flowers we grow in our veggie patch
Some examples of some of the flowers we grow in our garden include.
This is our favourite go to. We use it mostly as a living mulch but it also attracts parasitic wasps and hover flies. The downside is if you have a 4 year old boy who loves to collect caterpillars as pets, you’ll find they explode into parasitic wasp larvae instead of the butterfly. In the right conditions, it will self seed prolifically. We sell our saved seeds here.
Ladybugs and bees use this one a lot. You can use the petals to make healing salves (steep the dried leaves in oil) or even fresh in a salad is lovely. They also call the dried leaves poor mans safron.
Nothing gives me wildflower vibes more than cosmos planted en mass. We haven’t planted cosmos in years, yet every year they self seed prolifically. Again the petals are also edible.
The colour of the blue cornflower is a homing beacon for pollinators. It’s such a pretty flower and is used a lot in cake decorating as well.
An edible flower again with a similar colour that is really enticing for pollinators. This one is used a lot in cocktails and has a cucumber flavour.
I feel like sunflowers just belong in the vegetable patch. They are a bright sunny face that makes everyone smile. Of course you can eat them, but the bees adore them. We harvest ours for treats for the chickens. We sell our seeds for sunflowers here.
Another pretty stock standard in any veggie patch. You can eat the flowers, the petals are peppery but my kids actually showed me if you break off the end tip of the flower and suck on it - you get a hit of sugar! My mind was blown (I think grandma showed them). Some people also collect the green seeds and create poor man capers. I mostly grow them as a decoy plant for cabbage moth caterpillars and a living mulch.
I’d love to know if you’ve started integrating flowers into your vegetable garden? What types do you grow, leave a comment below!