How do flowers help your vegetables grow? Some special plants have natural pest-repelling properties. If you’re frustrated with battling garden pests who eat the tasty stuff that you’re trying to grow before you can, but are understandably leery of using pesticides on your food, try planting a few of these five flowers in your vegetable garden. They’ll protect your veggies — and they’re edible too.
Basil (ocimum basilicum)
With pale lavender, soft pink or striking white flowers, basil is an herb that looks as good as it tastes. But it’s much more than a pretty face; its oils reportedly encourage mosquitoes, thripes and flies to keep their distance. While basil shouldn’t be planted near rue because the two herbs don’t play nicely together, many gardeners plant this herb near their tomatoes and peppers. They credit it for bigger, more luscious fruits. Out of the garden, tomatoes, peppers and basil flowers or leaves make a terrific combo in a salad or pasta dish.
Bee Balm (monarda didyma)
Bee balm, also known as horsemint, may not be the first plant that pops into your head as you’re designing your garden, but it’s a great addition. With flower heads made up of firework bursts of vibrantly hued tubular flowers in red, pink and white, it draws the pollinators like bees and butterflies plants need to thrive and supposedly deters soil pests. According to WhatsCookingAmerica.net, bee balm has a flavor not unlike oregano or mint, with just a hint of citrus. Its flowers and leaves can be tossed into a salad or brewed into tea. Just remember to keep a close eye on this easy-growing plant. Under the right conditions, it will spread very quickly.
Dahlia (dahlia spp.)
With a rainbow of colors that includes red, orange, yellow, pink, purple and white, dahlias are striking spiky flowers that repel nematodes and attract people and pollinators. As Mother Earth News explains, the petals and bulbs of these flashy flowers are also edible. Flavor and texture vary by variety and the soil used to grow them.
Garlic (allium sativum)
One of my absolute favorite flavors, garlic is part of the flowering onion family. Besides bringing cheerful white or pink blossoms to the garden party, it keeps uninvited guests like snails, Japanese beetles, aphids, carrot flies and root maggots away, explains garden expert P. Allen Smith. Most people are familiar with the zesty punch of the garlic bulb, but the entire plant is edible. The flowers and leaves are milder than the bulb and make a tasty addition to salads, soups and other dishes.
Thyme (thymus vulgaris)
Thym’s gray-green leaves and delicate flowers in pale purples, blues, whites and pinks, attract flower lovers and pollinators. Upping the ante for gardeners, SF Gate reports that this woody plant also repels slugs, cabbage worms and other creep-crawling pests. Already a familiar presence in many spice racks, thyme flowers and leaves can be used anywhere you would use the dried herb.
Despite being descended from a long line of farmers, the green thumb gene skipped me. But, I enjoy gardening and truly relish raising fresh, pesticide-free food for my family. Store bought just never tastes as good as homegrown! I’ve gleefully devoured my share of the delicious strawberries, tomatoes and peppers we’ve grown, yet I haven’t quite found the daring to sample some of the flowers we use to deter pests. Regardless of my culinary cowardice, I do delight in their beauty — and their help in discouraging destructive garden pests.
Want more pest fighting flowers to protect your vegetable garden? Check out “Plant These Five Flowers for a Better Vegetable Garden.” For container gardening tips, visit “Safe Plastics for Gardening.”
“Bee Balm” — Weekend Gardener
“Edible Dahlia Bulbs” — Mother Earth News
“Edible Flowers are the New Rage in Haute Cusine” — whatscookingamerica.net
“Perennial Flowers that Repel Insects” — SF Gate
“Pest Control Plants” — P. Allen Smith Garden Home