These vibrant flowers can solve some of your biggest gardening woes! They are the best companion plant for your vegetable garden.
Preparing your soil
Nasturtiums like neutral soil, as most vegetables do. Therefore their pH requirements are not something you need to worry about as you will have already corrected the soil of the vegetables you will be planting. But if you are planting them in a pot, make sure you add at least one third coconut coir in order to retain moisture, as well as manure and compost. But their neutral pH preferences do mean that they don't often go well with tomatoes, capsicums and chillies who prefer acidic soil. Marry these vegetables with marigolds instead, and plant your nasturtiums with your cucurbits.
Poke your finger into the soil to the second knuckle and plant one seed in each hole. Don’t forget to cover the area around but not above the seed with mulch at least 3cm thick. Alternatively, you can also start seedlings about 6 weeks before the last frost.
You will probably never need to plant nasturtiums again as they self seed easily. You can easily save the seeds for next year if you want to choose where they grow.
Nasturtiums are the Gods of the vegetable gardens because they attract aphids and squash bugs away from other plants (the ones you intend to eat). Therefore they companion plant well with vegetables who are plagued by these pests. These include (obviously) the squash family, legumes, tomatoes and leafy greens like lettuce. I will be planting them near my nectarines this year along with French Marigolds in order to help combat the thrips who damaged the fruit last year. They are also an amazing companion for roses, attracting aphids away from your blooms.
Aphids and squash beetles. But that's the whole point of putting them into your vegetable garden!
These beautiful flowers are so much more than a pest controller or garnish. Both the leaves and the flowers are edible. At the end of autumn or with the first frost they will die back in cooler climates. They may continue to grow in warmer regions or if they have frost protection but they are an annual flower. When the conditions are right, they flourish again from the seeds they have left the season before.
Author: Diana Barnes, Growing Vegetable Down Under