Why You Should Always Plant Flowers in Your Vegetable Patch

If you’re still growing flowers and vegetables on opposite sides of your garden, it’s time to rethink your garden plan. Planting flowers and vegetables with a companion in the same beds is a strategy that professional growers use to increase yields and keep crops healthy, and it’s also easy and beneficial for beginners.

Maggie Saska, a crop production specialist at the Rodale Institute’s organic farm, says the most important reason to grow flowers in your vegetable bed is to attract native bees and other useful insects. Without the bees stopping in your garden to nibble on nectar and exchange pollen, you will have a rather disappointing harvest.

In addition, planting bee-friendly flowers near your vegetables also supports troubled pollinator populations and biodiversity. You can also plant flowers specifically to attract butterflies, hummingbirds and other desirable species.

Ready to start? Before ordering your seeds, here are five tips that Saska says it’s important to keep in mind when selecting varieties of flowers for your vegetable patch.

Pay attention to the flowering time

      pollinating honey bee

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      For the accompanying planting with flowers to work, you need to select flowers that will bloom along with your vegetables. If the type you planted does not flower until two weeks after the peas have finished flowering, your peas are out of luck.

      Seed packets will tell you how quickly the flowers will bloom after planting so you can synchronize your planting schedule. However, it is a good idea to plant a variety of flowers to ensure that you have continuous flowers throughout the growing season.

      Consider the shape of the flower

      Anna's hummingbird

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      The flowers that attract hummingbirds are not the same as those that attract beneficial bees or wasps. The shape of the flower makes it easier or more difficult for different species to access nectar and pollen. To attract bees and other pollinators, Saska recommends choosing flowers in a composite shape, such as zinnias, the cosmos, daisies, sunflowers and purple coneflowers.

      Space them

      Large ripe watermelon citrullus lanatus in a summer garden

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      Sprinkle the flowers in the garden rather than planting them in one clump. The way you do it really depends on you. You can plant a row of vegetables followed by a row of flowers, or you can plant them in the same row. Consider becoming strategic and using flowers to divide a row to indicate where your sweet peppers end and where your hot peppers start. Or plant flowers to form a border around the outside of the bed.

      Think about the size

      flowering sunflowers outside

      Antonia Gruber / EyeEmGetty Images

      You don’t want your flowers to compete with your vegetables for sunlight, so mainly choose low-growing flowers. However, some crops (such as lettuce) may benefit from some shade during the summer months, so it is sometimes wise to choose a larger variety.

      Start simple

      flowers in the vegetable garden just start

      rviard / Getty

      Saska recommends that beginners start by working with annual flowers as they grow easily and produce many flowers. You also don’t have to worry about their appearance in the same place every year if you want to change the design of your garden. (Start with these annual flowers that you can easily grow from seeds.)

      However, native perennials are one of the best ways to attract native bees, so don’t omit them entirely from your yard. The Xerces Society offers an excellent region-by-region guide to pollinator-friendly plants (primarily perennials) and includes information on flowering time, height, and watering requirements.

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