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4 May 2009

Flowers and organic vegetables

Mmmmm, that flower was delicious! Flowers aren't just for the flower garden, there are quite a few flowers that can be eaten and when planted in the organic vegetable patch, add more than their beauty to your garden. We always have some kind of flowers growing alongside our vegetables. Sometimes they're flowers that can be added to a salad and eaten, like nasturtiums or chive flowers, some times they are planted to attract bees and other beneficial insects.

If you're growing flowering vegetables and fruit, most of them will need to be pollinated. This job is usually done by insects. You'll attract bees to your garden simply by having flowers for them to collect pollen from. They'll go from flower to flower pollinating your flowers as they move along the line.

The flowers that attract bees and beneficial bugs include pansies, alyssum, zinnias, calendulas, marigolds, yarrow, viburnum, daisies, gerberas, sunflowers, linarea, Queen Anne's lace, gypsophila, lobelia, cosmos and flowering herbs like coriander, borage, comfrey, dill, oregano, thyme, sage and chives.


As in all things there are good and bad insects. You want to encourage ladybirds, hoverflies. lace wings and their offspring antlions, you don't want caterpillars, mealy bugs, thrips and aphids. If you encourage predatory insects and small lizards to your garden, they'll know to come back and when they do, they'll be looking for their favourite meal: the pests that eat your vegetables. To keep the beneficial predators around after they have eaten your garden pests, you'll have to supply a safe garden where they can find food and water most of the time. So plant the flowers they like, you'll be giving them plenty of nectar and pollen, and some water in the form of a bird bath or shallow bowl and you'll provide an insect-friendly habitat. When you add water for any sort of insect, bird or mammal, make sure it's not too deep for them. Most creatures like to sit on something while they drink, so pebbles in the water or on the edge give them a safe place to sit. Make sure you change the water frequently to avoid mosquitoes breeding in it.

Adopt a no spray policy. Any chemical pesticides will not only render your garden non-organic, they will kill both the good and the bed insects. Even the organic chilli and garlic sprays you make at home will kill most insects on contact.

Garden friendly insects will also need shelter. They usually find this in a biodiverse garden with all sorts of flowers and vegetables they can rest on and hide in. They love mulch and garden litter, so mulching your plants not only gives them the best chance of survival during hot weather, but it will also give small creatures a place to live.

Green Harvest - good bug mix. (Australia)
Grow Organic - good bug blend (California)
Good Bug Blend (Arizona)
General Advice on wildlife gardening (UK)
Edible flowers - (USA)
Edible flowers chart
Edible flowers - Isabell Shipard

A good Australian book - The Garden Guardians

I guess my favourite vegetable garden flowers are small daisies that grow into a small bush, yarrow, nasturtiums, and sunflowers. It's lovely to be able to pick the flowers you grow and bring them inside, but in this instance it's best to leave them in the garden, to provide food and shelter for those little beetles and bees you need in your vegie patch. So all you gardeners who are planting now, make sure you add a few flowers to your seasonal gardening plan. Just dot them throughout the garden so the insects have places to eat and hide in all your beds. It's another way of creating an organic and natural garden without having to spray or go on a bug chase.


  1. Hi there
    I enjoy reading your blog and have used a number of your recipes - thank you! Just a small thing on Queen Anne's Lace - if you are a seed saver, Queen Anne's Lace will cross-pollinate with carrots and could create some problems there.

  2. Good morning Rhonda,

    Your garden looks really lovely and I also like to see flowers around, they look pretty and as you say they serve a useful purpose as well. Where we live in Sydney, I have noticed a distinct lack of bees this year. We planted marigolds in the front garden of our units and still very few bees visited. Many of our friends commented on poor vege crops this season as well. Are we getting a not so gentle reminder that we are really overtaxing our city and neglecting our very necesary insect friends?

    Blessings Gail.

  3. I love flowers in the garden. In addition to all the insect benefits, they are simply love just to look at.

    For people worried about honey bees, be at ease in knowing many other insects also pollinate crops. I've seen all manner of flies, wild bees (I love the bumbles), and the ground hornets. (I'm not fond of ground hornets, but they are very fond of eating the pests in my garden, and I've seen them happily rummaging about in blossoms too.)

  4. I want to make several comments. Firstly to Gail. I live in the centre of Perth and have seen personally the council spray and kill bees in local parks. City people have an aversion to them it seems.
    Talking about insects I personally find that nature left alone is often best. My hybiscus is covered every year with heaps of aphids for 1 to 2 weeks. Visitors often remark, but I ignore it and heaps of ladybirds turn up and devour them. Last week we had the fun of bringing some lava inside overnight and watching them hatch! Isn't mother nature grand!
    Also about flowers, recently I read where the French Marigold, Tagetes Patula is 99% effective against Nematodes. Hope this helps.

  5. Hi Rhonda Jean
    thank you for your informative blog I too love flowers and plant them every year Just a bit of trivia for you Three of my family all read your blog and love it all reached it by their own ways unbeknown to each other. Regards ELLIE

  6. I think the brick/blocks are a wonderful idea to keep garden soil contained. I/we are just starting out with berries and rhubarb, but as I continue to journey to retirement I want to do more.

  7. What a lovely garden! We are just starting our gardening season here in Nebraska and I can't wait! Thanks for a wonderful blog!


  8. About your ads: Go for it. It doesn't hurt, and I find that the ads generally are things of interest to me if I also like the blog. And when I don't like the ads, I easily tune them out.

    Are there any flowers that attract bugs that eat the worms on brocolli? Or potato bugs? I'm growing a front-yard veggie patch this year and want it to look nice, so I'd rather not cover the brocolli with cloth if I can get away without.

  9. absolutely gorgeous garden you have Rhonda Jean..and always such very useful information to absolutely wonderful job you do with your nlog. really enjoy it.

  10. Oh I have been gardening lots of late. We even planted a native bush in our neighbourhood for a gardening guerilla challenge which I blogged about on Sat.

    But I also have planted flowers and was feeling a little guilty that they weren't the veges I yet want to get in.

    Thanks for today's post which has yet again encouraged me that it is a good thing to do.

    Apart from the benefits you have mentioned flowers are just so good for the soul - mine, my precious girls and my husband's too. He is always wanting me to put flowers in :)

  11. Good morning Rhonda Jean
    The email link works for me now. I didn´t need to send one - was just checking the function. Dimwit me didn´t realise that it was the clicking on the ads that generated income - not just the fact that they appear on the homepage. Will click.
    Great advice about mixing flowers and veggies. I have been reading up on this subject and trying to get it working for me. Did you know this kind of garden is also called a potager garden? The term came from France in the 17th century. The wealthy classes there had teams of gardeners of course. They planted the flowers/vegatables in fantastic patterns
    The spring/summer season is pretty short here so there is always a rush to get plants in the earth. I´ll stick to my raised straight beds and turn to my lovely books to drool over the sophisticated potager gardens.
    Nasturtiums, marigolds and sunflowers are my favourites. I took the seeds from last years flowers so I am hoping they work for me this season. Will be going on an outing soon to pick stinging nettles. When soaked for about a week and diluted with 1 part nettle water to 10 parts water they give all flowers and veg a great vitamin kick. I have read this strengthens their resistance to bug attacks etc.
    Good natural gardening.
    Ramona K
    Uppsala Sweden

  12. Hi Rhonda
    I think sometimes you read my mind! I went to bed thinking about good bugs! And woke up to find this post. Another reason that I found this informative is because we have been talking about growing edible flowers for market once we get our farm going (next year). You gave a couple of names that I will research for our area. Thanks!

  13. Thanks for the tips, Rhonda! For a novice gardener like me, your blog is a treasure chest.

  14. I love reading your blog - I do have a question since your post today is on organic gardening. We live in the southeastern USA and are having problems with ants in our blackberry and raspberry beds. Any ideas on what is safe to use to get rid of them so they don't eat/destroy all the berries when they ripen? Thanks so much!

  15. Thank you so much for this helpful post! I will definitely remember these tips!

  16. Nasturtiums are wonderful to cover waste areas in the garden, and I love their peppery taste in salads. Yum. They are also easy flowers for which to save the seeds.

    If you want to advertise Rhonda, it is your blog, so go for it. I don't think the google ads are obtrusive, and if this blog makes you some money, wonderful. You've already been quite generous with your time and expertise.


    AM of the bread

  17. For Denise in the U.S. - I'm in Texas and had fireants in my raised beds in one corner. I just stirred them up every day and after a week or less they apparently got tired of rebuilding and moved.

  18. Deb, good point. We have a lot of small predatory wasps here that eat a large number of the bad insects.

    Evelyn, we don't have potato bugs here but we use Dipel if there are large numbers of grubs or caterpilars on our brocolli or cabbage. Dipel is Bacillus thuringiensis and is a selective to caterpillars. It is organic.

    Ramona, before my son Shane left home, he helped me build a potager garden here. It was delightful.

    Denise, if you have no pets or children around you could leave a small container (upturned jar lid) with honey and borax in it. The ants will eat the borax and take it back to the next. OR, follow the ants back to the nest and pour boiling water into it. You might have to do it a few times before they move.

  19. Great info Thanks Rhonda. We are lucky enough to have Blue Tongue lizards and lots of skinks in our backyard. I love them! I never have any snails. Between the chooks free ranging and the lizards i have few pest problems (although unfortunately the chooks won't touch the grasshoppers I seem to have lots of at the moment).

    I already grow Sunflowers to attract bees which i then feed to the chooks. The bug seed mix from Green harvest looks great thanks. I'll give that a go as i'll be mindng a bee hive shortly.


  20. Ironically I was just reading about what color of flowers attract different insects... According to the book, bees prefer blue, white and pink, but not pure red flowers. Looks as though butterflies and hummingbirds are the only ones attracted to red while beetles and wasps like dull colors.
    I love reading your blog, it's wonderful to know there are some many other people who aren't sucked into the 'big' life!

  21. thanks very much for this Rhonda. I've been having slight conundrums about the amount of caterpillars that have made their way into my wee organic balcony garden. I've noticed the odd lizard up here too, but I really want to attract more of the critters who will take care of the problem, because using sprays is out of the question. I pick them off and toss them to the birds mostly (how cruel am I?), but I really need to encourage a bit of an eco-system up here.

    So thanks for the post and the links, I'll be looking them up.

  22. Nasturtiums are one of my favourites too. Last year I grew enough to be able to pickle the seeds as 'Poor Man's Capers'. They've worked really well, are local (I'm in the UK where there are no Caper bushes to speak of) and are virtually free!


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