You don’t have to sacrifice beautiful flowers when you decide to grow a vegetable garden! Many varieties of annuals and herbs perform valuable work in the veggie patch, such as attracting pollinators and “good bugs,” repelling “bad bugs,” and even acting as trap crops to keep pests off the vegetable plants.
Bees and other pollinators are necessary for your vegetable plants to set fruit, so invite them in for a closer look with flowering annuals that bear plenty of nectar. The colors yellow, blue, and white seem to work best attracting pollinators, so consider a stand of Sunflowers,Sweet Peas, Cosmos, Zinnias, and Mints among the rows of vegetables. Not only will this add bright color to the display, but several of these plants are fragrant and/or great for cut-flowers. It’s a win-win!
Many insects are highly prized in the garden because they chase away or devour predators, and certain plants attract these “good bugs” so they can get to work. Plant the herbs Parsley, Dill, and Cilantro, as well as any flowering plant from the Aster family, such asMarigolds, Chrysanthemums, Calendulas, Zinnias, and Sunflowers.
Some plants are effective at repelling a specific pest that might be affecting your crops. Catmint is one of the best “fighter” plants, discouraging aphids, potato beetles, and squash bugs from entering the vegetable garden.Borage (shown left) repels tomato hornworms, while Geraniums are a great defense against Japanese beetles. Sage is another multi-purpose plant, repelling cabbage moths and carrot rust flies.
A few flowering plants work well as “trap crops,” attracting a pest to themselves rather than to the neighboring plants. 4 o’Clocks do a marvelous job of luring Japanese beetles to their stems. Nicotiana is a good insect attractor. And Nasturtiums are irresistible to aphids, keeping them off of nearby vegetables.
Add a little color, fragrance, and pest-fighting ability to your vegetable patch this year from a most unlikely source: beautiful flowering plants!