When thinking of pollinator-friendly plants, fruit and veg can easily be overlooked. However, both are reliable sources of nectar for pollinators and other beneficial insects. This May, we're celebrating all things flowers, and when designing your garden, fruit and vegetables are a must-have! That being said, there are ways you can make your veg patch even brighter with colour. In this article, Kim Stoddart explains how to design a bloomin' wonderful, colourful, climate change-savvy vegetable patch.
So many of us have found nurturing and joy in our outside spaces this past year. As well as the well-being benefit of lovingly tended homegrown edibles to bring to the table, the sight and sound of birds, bees and butterflies and their pals within our gardens, allotments and outside spaces have truly mesmerised and soothed the green-fingered population.
Flowers are so incredibly important on the biodiverse veg patch, for pollinators, for ground cover to provide protection for the soil, and to bring a much-need smile to our faces. A garden full of colourful blooms makes a green patch truly alive and kicking. There will always be plenty of goodies for the person, plate and planet when flowers are abundant!
Self seeded opium poppy - hello beauty!
Here’s how to easily weave many useful and glorious flowers into your outside edible space.
Take a walk on the wilder side
All flowers, great and small, have a valuable place in a more biodiverse garden. The wider the variety of flowers, the more opportunity there will be for pollinators and wildlife to thrive, providing natural pest control for your patch! For this and many reasons to boot, wildflowers have a welcome place on your plot.
Mixed planting with flowers and crops mixed in
Many will readily self-seed with gusto given half the opportunity. In Poppies, Aquilegia, Campion, Foxgloves, Snowdrops, Bluebells and Celandine, I allow them in with open arms around (and sometimes in) the veg beds. They are cheeky and bursting with resilient radiance so have a welcome place for a more nature-friendly garden.
At the very least, why not consider turning over a corner of your garden to wilder blooms or in the creation of a mini wildflower meadow
? Spring and autumn are the best times to do so, and there are many wildflower seed mixes available to buy for a wilder- a pollinator-friendly edge.
A tip for spring: Allowing Dandelions and Daises to move into your lawn by mowing a bit less provides a valuable source of nectar for many bees early in the season. Longer grass will also help protect against scorching in the summer.
Mowing less helps protect the ground & creates a haven for beneficial wildlife
Kim says let nature in for low maintenance grow your own. Pictured in wild soft fruit area with nettles and dandelions
I mix and match plants entirely in my training gardens, using stalwart, self-seeding flowers like Calendula, Camomile, Feverfew and Nasturtium as ground cover around my fruit and vegetables. This way, they help protect against pests and help ensure the ground doesn’t dry out as quickly. This saves time with watering, all the while providing a glorious splash of quirky colour throughout your patch.
Tip: You can put these blooms to many uses, including super low maintenance cut flowers for the home!
Nasturtium flowers great for ground cover
Vibrant veg blooms come in all shapes, sizes and colour, and the humble gorgeous veg flowers should not be overlooked. Have you ever examined a Broad Bean Flower? It’s stunning. How about a Courgette bloom? It’s mighty and delicious to eat, too!
You can also widen your collection in exciting and super resilient ways. Try leaving a few leek flower heads in the ground into their second year and watch as stunning, multi flowered Allium heads emerge triumphantly. They will attract pollinators for weeks. Ditto, Brassica Purple Sprouting and Broccoli left to flower will produce a myriad of enticing yellow blooms, delightful for decoration and creating an Instagram-worthy meal to impress.
Leek flower heads - set to impress
Brassica flowers are very popular with pollinators!
Let Lettuce, Radish and Rocket grow on and flower, and you are in for a visual treat. Leave some in situ, and you can have your own supply of home saved seed that is more adapted to your own growing conditions and entirely, blissfully free.
Tip: Another veg worth leaving in the ground to the second year to watch them flower include Carrot, Parsnip, Kale and Onion.
Shop fruit & veg:
Kim Stoddart has been writing for publications such as The Guardian on climate change savvy growing since 2013. She’s the co-author of The Climate Change Garden book and edits The Organic Way magazine for Garden Organic. Kim runs in-person, and online courses and webinars on all things resilient grow your own and polytunnel growing. See green rocket courses for more information.
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