Many a time have I been chatting to people about my allotment only to hear them sigh and say; ‘I would definitely grow my own if I had the room’. I am here to tell you that you don’t need an allotment to start growing your own fruit and veg.
You can have a patch that is both useful and beautiful; growing flowers and edibles together has been practised in gardens for centuries. It’s also worth remembering that the flowers in your garden will attract pollinators to edible plants that need insects to improve yield and can offer natural pest control.
Firstly, if you are lacking space, there are loads of plants that you can successfully grow in pots including; tomatoes, cucumbers, courgettes, fruit bushes, herbs and salad leaves. Even carrots can be successfully grown in a bucket. Next, is the misconception that flowers are for borders and you need a sperate plot for fruit and vegetables.
But, did you know that some flowering plants give off chemicals and odours that can act as a deterrent to certain pests? Nasturtiums, for example, attract blackfly keeping them away from your beans; onions planted between rows of carrots may reduce attacks by carrot fly and most herbs successfully keep pests at bay.
Herbs are also a fantastic option for companion planting because they are great for attracting bees and butterflies. They can be grown in a window box or a well-draining pot and also make a fabulous filler in flower beds. Herbs with a strong fragrance such as basil, chives, thyme, mint and rosemary can distract pests from the crops that they are grown with. Be aware that herb plants such as mint and borage can be invasive and are best grown in pots; I like to sink a pot into the ground for my mint so that it can’t escape. As a general rule herbs will happily grow in pots and can be kept by the kitchen door or on the windowsill so that they are within easy reach when you’re cooking.
I love planting flowers alongside my produce at the allotment and I fill containers with edibles as well as flowers at home. Salad leaves make a great ‘filler’ for Summer flowering tubs and a hanging basket full of basil and tumbling tomatoes can be just as beautiful as blooms.
I grow from seed (because it is cheaper). On my patch I will be enjoying nasturtiums with beans and spinach with my sweet peas. If you decide to buy plug plants, instead of growing from seed, try to make sure that the company you are buying from uses peat-free compost. You can try different plant combinations and see what works best in your garden. The best advice that I can give you is to have fun and experiment with what you grow. Happy growing!