If you’re still growing flowers and vegetables on opposite sides of your yard, it’s time rethink your garden plan. Companion planting flowers and vegetables in the same beds is a strategy professional growers use to boost yields and keep crops healthy, and it’s easy and beneficial for beginners to do, too. (Whether you're starting your first garden or switching to organic, Rodale’s Basic Organic Gardening has all the answers and advice you need—get your copy today!)
Maggie Saska, plant production specialist at the Rodale Institute organic farm, says the most important reason to grow flowers in your vegetable bed is to attract native bees and other beneficial insects. Without bees stopping by your garden to snack on nectar and swap pollen around, you’re going to have a pretty disappointing crop. Plus, planting bee-friendly flowers near your vegetables also supports struggling pollinator populations and biodiversity. You can also plant flowers specifically to attract butterflies, hummingbirds, and other desirable species.
(You may have also heard that some flowers help vegetables out by repelling pests—a popular example is that growing marigolds next to melons controls nematodes in the soil that destroy the melons’ roots. If you’re intersted, you can learn more about this practice in Great Garden Companions.)
Ready to get started? Before you order your seeds, here are five tips that Saska says are important to keep in mind when selecting flower varieties for your vegetable patch.