Friday, May 17, 2013

Beneficial Flowers For Your Edible Garden

For us food growers, it can often feel like flowers just take up space where a food crop could go.  But growing flower alongside other crops can be beneficial on many levels.  Including flowers in your garden can deter or attract bugs, create microclimates by shading certain areas, add some color to your existing vegetable beds, and can become food themselves.

Now if you know me at all, you know I would never suggest pulling up your garden and replacing it with all flowers, but there are many ways to tie flowers into an existing food garden.  Placing flowers at the end of rows, or interspersing them with the other plants can completely shift the feel of your garden space.  Traditional cottage gardens used this method and squeezed a variety of plants into a small space including ornamental, edibles and anything else that took the gardeners fancy. Marigolds are one of my favorite flowers to add to the vegetable beds to help deter nematodes from attacking my vegetables.  I also love to go through my flower gardens and stick extra vegetable seeds and plants in any empty holes.

If you are looking to add flowers to your vegetable gardens this year, here are some things to consider.

Choose Flowers to Attract and Deter Bugs

There is a bit of controversy out there as to how well flowers can work to deter bugs, but the idea that certain flowers deter bugs is an old one.  Here are some plants that may help deter pests:
  • 4 o'clocks - help kill japanese beetles
  • Chrysanthemums - kill and deter Japanese Beetles and nematodes
  • Nasturtium - deter a variety of pests
For more flowers that deter bugs, check out this article by Greg Holdsworth at Vegetable Gardener

Not all bugs are bad, and we often want to attract beneficial bugs to our garden to help with pollination and controlling other bug populations.  Here are some tips on attracting those good bugs to your garden: 

  • Plant a diversity of plants  and flowers to attract pollinators (especially those with lots of pollen and nectar)
  • Choose umbrella shaped flowers that attract certain wasps that feed on other pests
  • Native plants often attract beneficial insect indigenous to your area

Edible Flowers

Adding flower to your garden can also be good for the dinner table.  Flowers can add a bit of color, style, and nutrients to your table.  You do need to be careful since some common flowers are in fact poisonous, so make sure you do your research, and also only eat flowers that you know were not sprayed with something weird! Here are just a few edible flowers:

  • Basil
  • Allium
  • clover
  • Dandelion
  • Lilac
  • Sunflowers
  • Violets
  • Nasturtium
For a few more ideas for edible flowers, check out Tree Hugger and 42 Flowers You Can Eat

Adding flowers to your garden can help create a beautiful, edible, organic garden.  How do you incorporate flowers and edibles into your landscaping?


  1. Great ideas! We like to plant wildflower mix seeds next to our vegetables. I've always loved the idea of a cottage garden and like to mix the veggies and flowers. I've heard about marigold being beneficial as well, so I'll have to try that out this year.

  2. I have to fence my gardening spaces so I like climbing things like nasturtium to beautify the fence.
    Also, I'm growing amaranth this year - the young leaves can be eaten, the flowers are stunning, and then they produce a grain (hopefully. Maybe). I read a book called 'The edible front yard' for inspiration, even though i'm not working on a front yard...

  3. This is a great post and a good reminder that I really need to add some flowers to our vegetable garden. So many benefits!

  4. What a great post. I never even think of flowers when I think of food yet I eat sunflower seeds all the time.