Thursday, 30 December 2010

Flowers with my veg

I've been looking back over my plans that I made for the Leitrim vegetable garden for 2010 and never got to implement. As I looked at the list of different veg, I began thinking of how I love colour and flowers too and I'm wondering about trying a more cottage garden approach where there is a mixture of vegetables, herbs and flowers.

In part, I was inspired by the interesting creation that nature designed in the Leitrim garden this year - in my absence (see the pictures above and below).

I love a bit of bright colour - the orange of the calendula or the striking red of the red orach among the sea of green.

So, I've been wondering about interplanting some of the vegetables with flowers. When I had the poly tunnel I planted a lot of nasturtiums and, to be honest, they were a bit rampant .. but they did well here with the leeks, which managed to hold their ground!

I was thinking of trying them between the cabbages this year (I hear that nasturtiums and cabbages are good companion plants).

Another plan is to grow sunflowers (like this one that self seeded this year)

with some tall beans - these are barlotta de fuoco, which are colourful in their own right too.

Maybe its the misty, grey days we've been having since the snow thawed, but I keep thinking of bright colours ... and I'm wondering if I'd try some Californian Poppies....

... underneath some red curly kale.

Of course I could maybe even squeeze in some calendula nearby too.

I'd be tempted to use them for edging, but I find they can get a bit too tall and lanky to be truly fit for that purpose.

So, I'll probably stick to the tried and tested marigolds for edging, at least in places.

May have to sneak a few pinks in somewhere too.

Anyone out there any other good ideas for flowers to intercrop with veg?

I know some people sow carrot with flowers, such as Nigella ... and I'm considering trying my parsnips with blue flax.

Anyway, it's good to dream (and my garden dreams are all in vivid technicolour right now!).

Happy New Year everyone.

May 2011 be a good one for us all.


  1. Marigolds are good with leafy vegetables 'cos a lot of leaf eating insects do not like them.

  2. Violas - I forgot to mention the idea of trying voila as edging, or even alpine strawberries, or chives or other low growing herbs.

  3. May I add this source on Marigolds (tagetes:

    "... Depending on the species, marigold foliage has a musky, pungent scent, though some varieties have been bred to be scentless. It is said to deter some common insect pests, as well as nematodes. Tagetes are hence often used in companion planting for tomato, eggplant, chili pepper, tobacco and potato. Some of the perennial species are deer-, rabbit-, rodent- and peccary-resistant.

    T. minuta (Khakibush or Huacatay), originally from South America, has been used as a source of essential oil for the perfume industry known as tagette, and as a flavourant in the food and tobacco industries. It is commonly cultivated in South Africa, where the species is also a useful pioneer plant in the reclamation of disturbed land.

    The florets of Tagetes erecta are rich in the orange-yellow carotenoid lutein and are used as a food colour (INS-Number E161b), and as an additive to poultry feed.

    Marigolds are recorded as a food plant for some Lepidoptera caterpillars including the Dot Moth, and a nectar source for other Butterflies. They are often part of Butterfly gardening plantings. ..."

  4. Yes, John, the Calendula (pot marigold) and other marigolds (I tried Mr Majestic in 2009 with it's red stripes, it was great .. but the seed reverted to a plainer variety quite quickly)are top of my list for deterring pests and being pleasant to look at all at the same time. I like the idea of disguising my veg (from pests) behind a pretty edging.
    I know that some marigolds .. maybe the tagetes .. have root secretions that drive off eel-worms. The smell of some marigolds can deter some pests too. What a useful species.

  5. Ah - just read your last comment after I posted my second one. I'm loving marigolds more and more as I read! Thanks for that extra information.
    Yes, marigolds (in all their varieties) may well become my best plot flower, thanks John.

  6. I don't know that I can add any additional candidates to your already delightful collection, Ferris but I think it's a great idea. I am dreaming of spring too and in technicolor!

  7. I really like your ideas on interspersing flowers in amongst the veggies. We will be trying red orach for the first time in 2011 and hopefully it will do well for us. As to suggestions on flowering plants, we had a lot of fun with borage this past year and red amaranth is always popping up in the garden. Have a happy New Year.:)

  8. violas and strawberry plants
    they are a nice mixture........ I tend to plant lavender in rows . Looks lovely in high summer

  9. Hi Mr H (sorry for the delay in replying). Do try red orach, it looks stunning and I think it tastes great too (sort of like spinach and sort of like beetroot). It is erratic at germinating though - it did better when it self seeded with us. Also, I don't think the seed stays viable for long either.
    I will try some borage .. and amaranth. Is that the leaf or grain type? Or are they both similar?
    Have a great 2011.

    Hi John, hope you're doing ok after your eventful and hectic day. The thought of strawberries and voila is really quaint and sweet and seems evocative of lovely old cottage gardens .. I'll have to try it.
    I have some lavender seed, so I'll try it too. Wonder how long it will take to establish itself from seed?
    We had a hedge of lavender outside our old house, that I planted from container grown plants. It was just fabulous - and the bumble bees adored it.

  10. Hi Ferris, thank so much for dropping by my blog, I might never have found yours otherwise! yes, do, plant lots of flowers amongst your veg! Apart from sacrifice plants like nasturtiums that take the brunt of the blackfly attacks and marigolds to deter whitefly and aphids, there is also the whole "attract beneficial insects and pollinators" thing. Growing sage, origano, foxgloves attracts bees, sedums, lavendar, mint, sweet william attract butterflies, cornflowers, alyssum, coriander, achillea all attract hoverflies. Beauty and utility, a hard combination to beat!

  11. Hi Plantaliscious.

    Thanks for those good ideas on plants to attract beneficial insects. Just thinking about them has me longing for summer!

    Thanks for stopping by. I'm glad I found your blog. Good luck with your new allotment.

  12. The Hopi Red Dye Amaranth that we grow can be used for both leaves and grain...a wonderful plant.

  13. This is indeed the time of year when we all think about what we didn't get round to last season, and resolve to do better this year! You have to be an onward and upward type of person to be a gardener I think!. I always have tagetes in the veg plot as I think it's beneficial, and I grow calendula to harvest the flowers for herbal uses. I grew Amaranth Elephant Head this year for the first time, which was very ornamental too. Would like to try the Red Dye variety and the red orach mentioned above this year.

  14. Hi Mr. H. Thanks for the link to your amaranth post. I have some amaranth seed somewhere, I'll have to give it go this year. The Hopi Red Dye Amaranth sounds great.

    I wasn't sure if, generally, there were different varieties for grain and leaf. Having one variety that does both is really the best option.

    Hi Cottage Garden Farmer - thanks for dropping in. I'd like to try tagetes this year (I always love calendula) .. and you're encouraging my curiosity to try amaranth this year - ornamental and productive is always a winner.

    Do try red orache, it is great as a cut and come again and beautiful if you let it grow tall and it will self seed a little (which is useful as it is erratic to germinate).

    I wonder if Hopi Red Dye Amaranth is available in the UK?

    My seed is mixed grain amaranth from Real Seeds. I think the Organic Gradening Catalogue also does an amaranth and a quick internet check show me that Nicky's Nursery does some leaf amaranth.


I love hearing from people who have dropped by to read the blog, so please don't be shy about leaving a comment.