The draw to growing an organic garden is largely being able to control pests and disease without chemicals. No one wants to eat those. Still, without the right natural components, being totally free of either issue is a challenge. So, how do you create a naturally balanced system in your garden? One cut flower farmer discovered a fairly easy approach with beautiful benefits.
Here’s the secret:
- Make room for flowers in your organic garden.
- Choose many flowers of different variety.
- No synthetics allowed; Keep it natural.
- Beneficial creatures will come in droves.
Once those natural pollinators see you’ve got an endless supply of food for them, they’ll quickly settle in and get down to business.
Wait a minute! Isn’t this counter-productive? Wasting precious organic garden space on frivolous flowers won’t fill any plates! We have definitely lost the balance between natural and controlled planting. But, do you see any kind of segregation in a forest or meadow? Heck no; if the soil and other growing needs are present, everyone moves in, including the beneficial bugs and the bad ones too.
Here’s a good way to look at it: With a host of pollinators and natural pest control in place, your organic garden will produce more food per plant. Perennial flowers won’t help you in this situation because they bloom too fleetingly. You want annuals that bloom all summer, especially those grown for cutting. The more you cut to enjoy in the house, the more blooms they put out. In fact, says Lisa Mason Ziegler in her new Vegetables Love Flowers book:
“This practice of harvesting flowers while harvesting vegetables brings another gift from the garden. The day will come when there isn’t room for another bouquet in your home.”
Here’s a bonus: cut flowers are natural mood boosters and health equalizers. Both the scientific and health communities have long been aware of the benefits they have on humans. So, not only are those flowers a boon to the healthiness of your organic garden, they will also have a positive effect on you and those you share them with.
If you’re looking for a non-cut annual with huge benefits, try Sweet Alyssum. This plant attracts hoverflies, whose larvae are voracious aphid and leafhopper predators. In turn, you’ll have fewer leaf disease outbreaks; a dream for any organic gardener.
Getting back to combining cut flowers with vegetables, Mason Ziegler says it will give you an organic garden rooted in preventative medicine. The mix of companion plants means you’ve created a working ecosystem that never stops trying to overcome a problem. For instance, when was the last time you saw squash bugs in a flower garden? I grow both, but the squash bugs have always stayed where the feast is: the veggie patch.
This is such a great concept, especially when you consider many organic growers actually buy beneficial insects from a catalogue. The problem is, if there’s not enough food for the army upon its arrival, it won’t hang around long. Even the deadliest warrior will go AWOL if starving. Flower seeds are far less costly, provide season-long food and habitat for your benefit, as well as beauty in your organic garden. Zucchinis and tomatoes are lovely, but really can’t compete with comely snapdragons, statice, and bachelor buttons!
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Remember; don’t only designate one corner to flowers. You absolutely need to integrate them throughout the organic garden. An ecosystem isn’t segregated, so spread the protection and pollination services around. You’ll have more problem prevention, more fruits to pick, and more beautiful bouquets to enjoy.
Take advantage of what Mason Ziegler has to teach. She has 20 years experience as a professional cut flower grower, and an extended family farmer. Prepare for the coming organic season now with a copy of Vegetables Love Flowers: Companion Planting for Beauty and Bounty. It’s a well-written and interesting read. Available from Amazon.
A big thanks to Steve from the Quarto Group for sharing a pre-release copy to investigate. I’m definitely digging it and looking forward to incorporating some lovely annuals in this summer’s garden.