Growing Flowers On Your Plot – A Waste Of Space?….

Last week I was very pleased to find that an article I had written had been published in the ‘Kitchen Garden’ magazine.  It can be found on the back page if anyone has a copy.

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I wrote about growing flowers on my allotment and that I was once accused of wasting space by growing too many flowers…. I agreed that if I didn’t grow so many flowers I would have more space for vegetable plants, but I strongly believe I would also have fewer vegetables to harvest as there would be less insects around to pollinate my crops.

I have said many times that you only need to stand and watch a wild flower patch to see the buzz of activity there, it is so fascinating to watch.

My wildflower patch has finally given up flowering, after it yet again looked beautiful over all of the summer months.  It cost me just the price of a few packets of seed and a small amount of time.

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I try very hard to squeeze flowers into my allotment whereever I can, as they not only make my allotment look pretty but they are also good to cut and take home to put in vases.  However more importantly they are good for attracting beneficial insects that pollinate our crops and also voraciously feed on the pests that eat our crops and spread diseases.

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In the magazine article I mentioned ‘five of the good bugs’ that are great for our vegetable plots and flowers will attract them:

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Five of the ‘good’ bugs:

Bees – Flowers encourage bees, which in turn pollinate your crops.  They are active from late winter until autumn, so I try really hard to have plants in flower during all these months.

Lacewings – These are voracious predators as the larvae and adults feed on caterpillars, thrips, mealy bugs and aphids.  They are especially attracted by Cosmos flowers, coreopsis and sweet alyssum.

Ground beetles – Ground beetles are nocturnal and they are great for keeping night time pests at bay.  They like to eat cut worms, slugs, snails, caterpillars, aphids etc.  They like to overwinter in perennial plants.

Soldier Beetles – Unfortunately these beetles do eat the good bugs as well as the bad, but they do help to control aphids and caterpillars.  They particularly like catnip and goldenrod.

Ladybirds (sometimes called Lady beetles or lady bugs) – Ladybirds love to eat aphids, scales, spider mites, mealy bugs, etc. which is why most people recognize these as a beneficial insect.  It’s their larvae that eat the most of the ‘bad’ insects and can get an infestation under control in no time.  Ladybirds are attracted to the parsley family i.e. parsley, dill, fennel, carrots etc.

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I grow flowers from as early in the year as possible right through to late flowering plants, to help beneficial insects to survive and in turn they pollinate my crops.  But flowers also help me in different ways too and below are a few other reasons I grow them around my plot:

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  • I grow Calendula as they look so pretty and self seed like mad so you only need to buy a packet of these seeds once….and the flowers are edible and the petals look fabulous scattered over a bowl of salad.

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  • I use nasturtiums around my dalek compost bins, as these help to surpress weeds nicely….they also provide great ground cover around longer growing vegetables like brussells, spring broccoli and kale.  They also attract blackfly so I plant them around my runnerbeans as sacrificial plants (so the blackfly stay away from my beans).   As a bonus, the nasturtium leaves taste ‘peppery’ and again they are nice in a salad.
  •  I use sweet peas near my runnerbeans to attract beneficial insects to pollinate them so I get more beans to pick.

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  • I line my paths with lavender and poached egg plants, again to attact beneficial insects that love the flowers.  The poached egg plants surpress weeds by covering the ground and self seed easily….any plants that I don’t want can also be dug into the soil and act as a green manure.

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  • I grow Sunflowers as the birds love to feed on the seed heads in autumn.

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  • I plant Tagetes near my tomatoes and also in my polytunnel as this helps to deter white flies.

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  • And finally I experimented this year with ‘Tagetes minuta’ which stated on the packet that it is an “extraordinary plant that isn’t a looker, but its roots kill perennial weeds such a ground elder and couch grass. Height: 180cm”

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I grew the seeds in modules and planted the plants out at the beginning of June.  I found that the plants didn’t kill the weeds as promised, but I would use them again as the weeds around them really didn’t grow half as fast as normal.

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‘Tagetes minuta’ planted in a weedy area at the back of my plot

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So I hope I have convinced a few people reading my blog today to try and ‘squeeze’ one or two flowers onto allotment plots and kitchen gardens next year…..If you haven’t grown flowers before I think you will be pleasently surprised.

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Thank you for reading my blog today.

I will be back on Friday at my usual time.

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24 thoughts on “Growing Flowers On Your Plot – A Waste Of Space?….

  1. I live in France and everyone grows their own veg – it’s like the 1940s here with chickens, veg, rabbits .. The plots are immaculate and they always have an area of mixed flowers to attract beneficial insects .. you buy the mixed flowers along side the veg seeds! I highly recommend it.

  2. There are lots of flowers around here in the gardens (all the plants are growing like crazy due to the poor air quality) but one needs to grow ones own flowers not just for the bees, but so you can bring them inside and make the place look and smell awesome! I don’t have as much success growing the flowers I WANT to grow, but every time I look at your allotment I am filled with fresh vigor!

  3. The tagetes sound a great idea – will look into the for next year. I tried nasturtium for the first time this year and am pleased to see that they have not only been quite prolific but are still in flower now😊.

  4. What a lovely post. I always like to try and squeeze in some flowers at my plot, I wouldn’t be without them. Annuals as well as roses and lavender, I love them.

  5. I echo everything you say in this blog post. I have such a tiny allotment but I still interplant flowers amongst the vegetables. I am fortunate that in the adjoining community garden we have the space to plant many more flowers to encourage the beneficial insects – and it looks pretty!

    • I see your allotment when I read your lovely blog Jean and what you do at your allotment and with your community. I love the way you are all so helpful towards each other at your site…I wish people in the UK would be more like your community site.

  6. I love to grow flowers along side veg, and now a days i try and grow as many plants in the garden and will do up the allotment to help the bees. Just got a book to read “Honey natures golden healer”, one day i would love to have some bee hives but at the moment the land just has nothing for them to feed from. Have a good week.
    Sue

    • Oh me too Sue, but unfortunately our allotment site won’t allow them (even after me pestering them)- I wish they would as I had an offer from someone who needed to find a place to keep some of his bees and in return I would have been given free honey and I could have learnt from him….it was such a shame.

  7. This year on the allotment we have had cut flower beds as well as growing flowers amongst the vegetables. There has been a few ‘boos’ and hisses from a couple of allotment neighbours who don’t like flowers or who think you should only grow vegetables. But we have had great enjoyment from the flowers. We have had flowers in the house all through the summer and I have one row of rudbekias still flowering in November

  8. As per Margarets’ comment – I dedicated a few of my allotment beds to flowers this year as I am never as organised as I think I will be with the veg. & I have been really pleased with the number of positive comments (& some admiring looks from the girls) that I have received given that the beds not only look attractive and encourage the beneficial wildlife, but I have also had fresh flowers in the house every week since about june …. & I just picked the last few cosmos yesterday (not bad for mid-November eh?!?). I have deliberately chosen perennial varieties, with the exception of the dahlias, so hopefully each year they will continue to look as good if not better, and provide me with the same wonderful cut flowers for many years to come. I don’t think it needs to be one or the other (veg or flowers), the art of the gardener is to strike the correct balance for themselves, after all the pleasure is in the growing & I don’t think I will ever get bored of that 🙂

  9. I’ve had my lotty for a few years now and have always planted flowers as well as vegetables. I’ve got a dedicated flower border as well as using them in companion schemes as you do. I also dot flowers where ever there is a gap in my veg planting. When I started, I too had the odd looks from other plot holders but over the years, I’ve noticed that the majority of them also plant flowers now. One that really frowned on my sowing poached egg plant as “it’s a weed” now has a perennial bed and a large dahlia border to “keep the missus happy!” 🙂

  10. Completely agree with all you’ve said (and some lovely photos too). I grow lots of flowers, sometimes by accident but just leave the so-called weeds where they’re not in the way, or sometimes even if they are (borage, poppies, foxgloves, black medic and marjoram for example that pop-up everywhere). This year a lot of plants are continuing to flower late too, so I’ll leave them for a while longer before clearing. I saw a bumble bee on a borage flower the other day. Oh, another of my faves is Love in a Mist. I have lavender and calendulas too. Plus a hedge that I inherited on the plot that produces tiny white flowers late in summer which the insects absolutely love, even in the dark you can hear them buzzing away. The hedge is adjacent to the main access path through the plots so I have to keep it trimmed a few times in the year so cars can get past but always leave it from mid-late summer to let the flowers develop. It forms a good wind break too, though nothing edible.

    Plus I let some of my veggies go to flower (again sometimes by accident!), then let them seed around too for free veggies. I’ve just spotted some lambs lettuce that’s come up using that method.

    Very interested to hear how you get on with tagetes minuta as I’ve got very vigorous couch grass which continuously creeps in to my beds and I have to clear out every winter.

    On the bee-keeping front, a couple of friends have a hive in their large back garden in the centre of Norwich that produces amazing honey. When I see honey bees on my plot or in my back garden I always like to think they’re my friends’! One day I’d like a hive but the garden is too small and I’d be worried about vandalism/ theft on the allotment.
    Thanks for an enjoyable post, sorry about the essay!

    • Your comment wasn’t an essay, it was a really enjoyable read. I love reading what other people are doing and your plot sounds fab and what a lovely way to think about the bees on your flowers. I also love flowers that self seed, it makes life so easy doesn’t it lol

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