Many people think of growing a vegetable garden just for food. And oftentimes, vegetable gardens aren’t considered pretty. But if you are spending time tending the garden, why not add some flowers to your vegetable garden.
Growing flowers in the vegetable garden will not only make your garden beautiful, many varieties attract beneficial insects and repel harmful ones. Learn the best flowers to plant in a vegetable garden so you can have a productive, beautiful garden this year.
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Why Plant Flowers in Your Vegetable Garden
There are many reasons why growing flowers in the vegetable garden is a good idea. Flowers provide more than just beauty in the garden. They have many practical uses as well. Here’s why you should grow flowers and vegetables together and how to know which flowers to grow.
Flowers Help Deter Pests
Flowers grown among your vegetables can help deter pests. There are many insects that like to feast on your fresh vegetable plants, but some flowers, such as marigolds, actually repel insects.
Flowers Attract Bees & Other Pollinators
Another reason to plant flowers in your vegetable garden is that the pretty flowers will attract bees and other pollinators. Many crops won’t produce fruit without being pollinated.
For instance, if you see small squash that are starting to rot, that usually means the squash did not get pollinated. Providing a few flowers will attract more bees to your garden to ensure proper pollination. That means more food for you!
Flowers Can Benefit the Soil
Some flowers can even benefit the soil. Plants that grow long roots can pull nutrients up from deep in the soil that will make them available to your vegetables. Others help the soil by deterring nematodes that eat the roots of your vegetables.
Some Flowers are Edible
Growing flowers in the vegetable garden can add additional food to your table as some flowers are even edible. While most people immediately think of squash blossoms when they think of edible flowers in the garden, but pansies and nasturtiums are also edible. They are an attractive addition to a homegrown salad.
Flowers are Just Pretty
A final reason to grow flowers is to provide beauty in the garden. Vegetable gardens can be gorgeous. And even if your garden is not worthy of a magazine (I know mine sure isn’t.) a few flowers can make you smile as you go to pick your produce. If you have lots of blooms, you may even be able to bring a few cut blooms indoors.
How (and Where) to Plant the Flowers
Planting flowers among your garden is helpful to attract bees and deter pests but there are actually several different ways you can plant flowers in a vegetable garden.
The easiest way is just to intermingle a few with your vegetables. I always plant a few marigolds sporadically through my garden as lots of pests don’t like the way they smell. Their scent can confuse bugs so they don’t find your vegetable plants.
In my 4‘ x 12’ garden plan, I included a few marigolds for this very reason. I tend to plant marigolds underneath my squash and zucchini and even around tomatoes. Anywhere I have an open space, I will plant marigolds.
You can also plant your flowers as a border around your vegetable garden. Taller plants such as lavender can be planted near the back of the garden and smaller ones such as petunias and marigolds can be planted near the front.
Planting flowers in a border around your garden can be especially helpful if rabbits are a problem in your area. Even if you are growing a few vegetables in containers, I recommend planting at least one container with some flowers to attract the bees for pollination.
You can choose to purchase transplants of your flowers or buy seed and start your own. If you are a beginning gardener, I encourage you to purchase transplants if you can find them. You’ll get an earlier start on your flowers and you don’t special equipment (like grow lights) to get them started.
However, a few of the plants listed below, like marigolds, nasturtiums, sunflowers, and cosmos, are easy to start from seed directly in the garden. So if you don’t find the flowers you are looking for, try searching for seeds. Read the seed packet to be sure the variety can be sown directly in the garden.
What Flowers Grow Well in a Vegetable Garden?
Pretty Flowers to Enjoy and Deter Pests
If you only plant one flower in your vegetable garden, plant marigolds. They are my favorite flower to plant in the garden because they are good for so many things.
They deter all kinds of insects and critters. Rabbits don’t like them, and they exude a substance that repels nematodes in the soil.
Marigolds are also supposed to help keep tomato hornworms, squash bugs, and Mexican bean beetles away. Their strong scent can confuse bugs so that they can’t find your vegetable plants.
Marigolds come in lots of yellows, oranges, reds, and even white, so you are sure to find one that will suit your garden aesthetic.
Nasturtiums are said to repel insects, especially squash bugs and whiteflies. I always try to grow a few nasturtiums among my squash & zucchini plants. Nasturtiums are a cool-weather flower, so they will die out in the heat of the summer.
As a bonus, the flowers of nasturtiums are edible. They have a peppery bite that is a welcome addition to a salad.
Cosmos are one of my favorite flowers to grow. As I kid, I used to beg my Mom to let me purchase some seed each year.
Cosmos are not only beautiful and easy to grow but they attract lacewings that eat lots of other insects. They are great for attracting pollinators and they also attract hover flies, a beneficial fly that resembles a bee.
They actually prefer hot, dry weather, and soil that is poor to average. Save your richest garden soil for something else.
Cosmos make great cut flowers to bring indoors. The single-bloom varieties tend to attract more insects, but if you have the room, there is no reason you can’t plant double-bloom varieties also.
Petunias make a great border flower to plant with beans, squash, and potatoes. They are useful for deterring bean beetles, potato beetles, and squash bugs.
There are so many pretty varieties of petunias in garden centers today. They tend to trail a bit, so leave some room for them to grow. However, if they get out of hand, they can easily be cut back.
Sunflowers are another useful flower in the vegetable garden. They attract bees to help pollinate your vegetables, but they can also be used as trellises for climbing plants like pole beans.
If you leave the seed heads in the garden, they provide food over the winter for birds.
Zinnias have become one of my favorite flowers to grow in the garden. They attract loads of bees and butterflies. Last year, I really enjoyed watching all the (beneficial) insects that were attracted to my zinnias.
The flowers last a long time on the plant and they make a lovely cut flower to bring indoors. I only had a few zinnia plants, but I had lots of flowers all summer long.
Zinnias are actually very easy to start from seed directly in the garden so a small packet will go a long way towards providing flowers all summer long.
Calendula is a great flower to grow in the vegetable garden. Calendula is also know as pot marigold, not to be confused with the standard marigold.
The plant weeps a sticky substance that can trap aphids and other bugs and keep them off other crops. It also helps repel tomato hornworms and asparagus beetles.
Chamomile has deep roots which bring up nutrients that are deep in the soil. The daisy-like flowers attract bees and butterflies to help with proper pollination. Tea drinkers will enjoy growing chamomile as it can be easily dried for use in tea.
There are many reasons to grow lavender in your garden, but planting it near your vegetables can benefit them as well. Since deer and mice aren’t fond of it, it can help keep them out of your garden. The smell is supposed to deter ticks and other insects.
Once harvested, lavender can also be used in the chicken coop and do-it-yourself beauty recipes. One thing to consider when planting lavender is that it is perennial so it will need to be planted where it will be out of the way for years to come. It would make a great plant to use in a border near the back of your garden, but it will also thrive in containers.
Any kind of mint, especially Peppermint and Spearmint, is great to deter ants and cabbage moths. Planting it near cabbage and other brassicas (broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts) can keep them bug free.
I do want to caution you, however, that most types of mint are very invasive. Only plant them in containers near your crops. Otherwise, they may very well take over your whole garden.
It took my Mom years and years of work to get rid of the mint she planted in the ground by her back door.
Do You Plant Flowers in Your Vegetable Garden?
I hope this has inspired you to grow a few flowers in your vegetable garden. From naturally keeping the bugs away, to benefiting your soil, flowers can play an important role in vegetable gardening.
Do you plant flowers with your vegetables? What kinds work best in your area? Leave a comment and let me know. I always look forward to hearing from you!