Some people think that flowers should just grow in a flower garden and vegetables should just grow in a vegetable garden. I have always either surrounded my vegetable gardens with flowers or I’ve interplanted flowers in the vegetable garden. I know a lot of you are in the process of planning your vegetable gardens and I just want to encourage you to plan on adding flowers this year if it’s something you don’t already do.
There are several good reasons to add flowers to your vegetable garden besides the beauty they add. Although “companion planting” is a debatable gardening method (one which I find fascinating), it has been proven that flowers attract pollinators to a vegetable garden.
A flower’s blossoms and fragrance attracts pollinators that are important to the success of your vegetable garden. Although there are some plants that are wind or self-pollinated, most plants need a pollinator.
Who Are Pollinators?
Bees, butterflies, moths, bats, humming birds, beetles,
wasps and flies.
What do pollinators do?
Basically, your garden needs pollinators like bees and butterflies to transfer the pollen from the male part of your vegetable to the female part in order for fruit to develop. Vegetables that we grow for the leaves like lettuce & spinach and vegetables that we grow for their roots like carrots and radishes don’t need pollinators. Vegetables like peppers are self-pollinating but set more fruit if pollinated by bees. But vegetables like squash definitely need pollinators otherwise you have to pollinate those squash blossoms by hand!
It is said that bees are more attracted to flowers that are white, yellow, orange, scarlet, blue, violet and purple such as coneflowers, cosmos, bachelor buttons, daisies, zinnias and sunflowers. Butterflies like yellow, red and purple flowers like asters, calendula, and sunflowers. Hoverflies and wasps like candytuft and daisies.
Borage which actually is a herb is supposedly one of the best bee attractors . I’ve never grown it before but I ordered some seeds this year so I’ll be trying it out.
A word about growing sunflowers in your vegetable garden.
One year I used mammoth sunflowers in a “3 sisters” method which normally is growing corn, squash and pole beans together and I discovered that squash beetles loved laying their eggs on the underside of the huge leaves of those sunflowers – waaaay at the top! I had to climb on a ladder to get at those squash beetle eggs and had a very hard time controlling them until I ripped out those big sunflowers.
So I don’t grow the really tall sunflowers in my veggie garden anymore just the shorter ones!
Pollinators like bunches of flowers which is why I often plant a container of flowers and place it that the end of a bed. I also dedicated one raised bed just for flowers last year.
Some other tips for attracting pollinators to your garden:
-plant native flowers because your native bees are more attracted to flowers that are familiar to them
-do not use chemicals in your veggie garden. Pesticides and herbicides kill bees and honey bee populations are declining as it is! If you must use a pesticide try to do so in the late afternoon or evening since bees are most active early in the day.
You can find a list of plant names that will attract pollinators at Pollinator.Org All you have to do is enter your zipcode to find your ecoregion and get a list of plants that are specific to where you garden (the list is at the end of the document).