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 flowering plants 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.
6 Benefits of Interplanting Flowers and Herbs in the Vegetable Garden
- 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.
- 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. Don't overlook flowering herbs, here. Herbs in the mint family, like oregano and thyme, are particular favorites with bees. Of course, you will have to stop harvesting a few plants, to give them time to set buds and flower. Some additional choices: cosmos, larkspur, mints, sunflowers, sweet peas and zinnias.
- Attract other Beneficial Insects - Not all insects are garden pests. There are insects that are good to have in your garden, because they feed on the actual pests. These include insects such as 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 - Okay, 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 Beetle
- Sage repels Cabbage Moths and Carrot Rust Flies
- Biodiversity - In short, what all this interplanting is leading to is a very old gardening concept called biodiversity, or planting a wide variety of things rather than a single, monocrop. This helps to confuse insect pests by interplanting things they love with things they won't touch. Whether there is also a symbiotic relationships between different plant species is still the subject of much study and speculation.
- 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 or appearance. If you want to plant, black-eyed Susan, celosia, salvia and zinnias in straight rows that will always be half way 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.