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.
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.
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.
In the magazine article I mentioned ‘five of the good bugs’ that are great for our vegetable plots and flowers will attract them:
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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- I grow Sunflowers as the birds love to feed on the seed heads in autumn.
- I plant Tagetes near my tomatoes and also in my polytunnel as this helps to deter white flies.
- 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”
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.
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.
Thank you for reading my blog today.
I will be back on Friday at my usual time.