As we start a new year, most of us set goals in the form of our New Year’s resolutions. But did you know that less than 8% of resolutions are kept? Here’s a resolution tip especially for gardeners: Make your New Year goals about improving your gardening success.
It’s an easy resolution to keep because here’s a gardening secret: Mixing vegetables and flowers in your gardening space leads to a healthier, more productive growing season! It works for me, so I’m confident it will work for you too.
How to Combine Your Flower and Vegetable Garden
As you’re planning out your new garden this season, keep the following tips in mind:
Improve Pollination. It’s no secret – brightly colored flowers attract bees, butterflies and hummingbirds. Planting a mixed flower and vegetable garden bed attracts these pollen-loving insects right where we want them – to our fruiting vegetable plants. After all, the small flowers produced by our tomato and pepper plants can hardly compare to the draw created by some of the top pollinator attracting flowers. Try planting cosmos, zinnias or alyssum among fruit-bearing vegetable plants to increase fruit set and seasonal yields.
Increase vegetable gardening space. Planting edibles with flowers is a great way to increase vegetable yields for gardeners with limited backyard space. What’s more, some edibles rival the beauty of any ornamental. But don’t get stuck thinking ornamental kale is the only vegetable that looks good in the front flower beds. Try adding Bright Lights Swiss chard for a colorful foliage plant. Or grow early spring peas instead of daffodil and tulip bulbs. Their delicate leaves, tendrils and perky flowers can add visual interest until the annuals become established.
Reduce pests. We all know annual flowers have pest-resistant properties. Why not use this to our benefit? Plant marigolds where nematodes are problematic. They have a natural nematode-killing property present in their roots. When nematodes invade the roots of marigolds, they die before producing more little nematodes. Likewise, calendulas secrete a sticky sap which traps aphids and whiteflies. Plant pest-resistant annuals between vegetable plants for a natural pest barrier.
Create a living mulch. A living mulch of annual flowers does exactly the same thing as grass clippings, straw and newspaper. It keeps down weeds and conserves soil moisture. Try planting short annuals, such as alyssum or French marigolds, around cabbage, lettuce and pole bean plants. Or root those clematis trimmings around the corn. They’ll form a dense mat on the surface of the soil and slowly climb the stalks after the corn is harvested.
Add visual appeal. Mixing vegetables and flowers adds splashes of color to the backyard garden. After all, why should all the colorful annuals be for passersby? Plant bright orange poppies in the peppers or add a tall row of sunflowers among the corn at the back of the garden. The key is matching the height of the flowers with that of the edibles.
All that’s left to complete your New Year’s resolution is to sit back and enjoy the view from the back patio!