I have spent the past few years perfecting my balcony garden. I’ve built myself a lot of plants, went vertical, augmented with watering systems and the occasional grow light, but I really do only tend to focus on my fruits and veggies. And when you don’t have a lot of space, you have to be pretty selective about what you grow.
But, flowers in the vegetable garden bring a lot of benefits. Many are either pest repellant or great at distracting bugs that might otherwise be munching on the food you planned to harvest. Pollinators are also necessary for many outdoor crops, such as tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, berries, and melons (yes, you can grow all of those on your balcony).
With lots of blooms and delicate leaves, this flower is great in any garden, as it commonly grows wild in poor-quality soil. German Varieties are more commonly grown for medicinal uses, as they tend to have more prolific blooms. It will self-seed if flowers are not harvested, and if put in a windy area can spread all over the garden. This plant loves well-draining soil.
Harvest blooms in the late morning, and dry on a mesh screen or rack. Store in a tightly sealed glass jar in a cool, dark spot. Tea is commonly used for insomnia and anxiety.
Chamomile has been used as a companion plant for fruit trees in orchards and is great to plant around the base of any dwarf varieties you’re growing in pots. It also grows well as a flower in the vegetable garden beside; beans, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower cucumbers, kale, and onion.
My grandmother always grew a big patch of these right outside our cottage, so these flowers just tend to feel like home for me. But, it wasn’t until I was well into adulthood that I learned that these plants are also edible! And, they’re available in a wide range of colours, grow back year after year, and are drought tolerant.
Fry the buds before the petals fully form (1” – 3”) in a little oil and salt. Once the flowers form, you can stuff them with cheese or any other filling and fry them lightly. Each flower only lasts one day, so enjoy them while you can. Daylilies are great when co-planted with echinacea, and as a harvesting item themselves, they make a great addition to any vegetable garden.
Commonly known as coneflower, this is one of the most recognizable pollinator plants we have. Coming in a wide range of colours, every grower can find one to fit their garden colour scheme. Tea made from dried flowers is commonly recommended for colds because it can help with a sore throat, headaches, and coughs. To give yourself a double sore throat boost, infuse honey with fresh petals to make a syrup for tea.
Native to North America, these plants are both drought and heat tolerant, and they self seed well every year. Coneflowers like lots of sun and well-draining soil, with lots of fresh compost every year. If you’re looking for flowers in the first season, it’s better to buy an established plant.
Don’t plant this one in with your other crops, because it has a tendency to take over, instead, plant it off to the corner of your vegetable garden with some daylilies to attract beneficial pollinators to your plants!
Hello, my favourite trap crop. Edible, colourful, and great both indoors and out, this plant is one of my favourites to grow. Start seeds inside in a dark cupboard, and plant them out only after they’ve developed a few leaves. These are also great for container growing, so tuck ‘em in with your tomatoes, cucumbers, or a window box. Choose well-draining, poor soil, and keep an eye for if they need to be trellised up!
For food purposes, the leaves are nice and peppery. You can use them to stuff or as a quiche crust. The flowers have a slightly milder taste and make a great addition to salads, butters and spreads, and as a garnish on loaves of bread. Nasturtiums make a great companion to tomato beds, as a border around cucumbers, melons, squash, kale, pumpkin, or cabbage and kale for a thriving vegetable garden.
Where the common dessert gets its name, the roots of this flour are great for digestion. The flowers also make a great edible garnish. They like slightly acidic soil, and can grow up to 5 ft tall with full sun and very damp soil, and they will definitely attract lots of good pollinators.
Have an area in your vegetable garden that always seems to be a little soggy? This is the perfect plant for that area, as it’s a hardy perennial, and some species were native to Northern Europe. Be patient, flowers and roots won’t be harvestable until year two.
I started growing my first snapdragons this year and boy do I love them! They grow great in containers and come in endless colours, and prefer cooler temperatures. Because of the flower size, they attract bumblebees.
Moist, rich soil, full sun, and slightly acidic soil will help these guys thrive. They are a hardy perennial in zones 11 – 7, but they are grown around the world as well-loved annuals. Seeds are easily collectible, and always remember to deadhead to keep a long blooming season. Snapdragons grow pretty well with anything and like to be cut back in mid-summer, so choose an area you want late summer and fall colour and go nuts.
Virginia Mountain Mint
Technically not part of the mint family, this is a pollinator that is native to North America. The mint is a lot more punchy, and it is a wonderful insect repellent. It likes dry-er, loamy soil and gets adorable little crowns of white flowers.
If you have problems with deer or rabbits, this is the perfect flower for your vegetable garden. It will grow well anywhere regular mint would, and you will need to prune it back regularly, so plant it amongst your other herbs or a little tea garden.
A beautiful perennial, this plant has long been in medicinal cupboards and is a fragrant choice for your garden. Yarrow tonic has been used to aid in nutrient absorption, and teas are commonly used to detoxify. Fresh chewed leaves are a great poultice on shallow wounds, and the oils in them have anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties.
Yarrow pretty much tends to itself, though it’s not terribly drought tolerant. Mulch or weed around the base regularly to make sure it doesn’t get crowded out. Thin regularly to make sure there’s lots of room for new growth.
Yarrow’s root secretions increase the natural disease resistance of nearby plants, making this great for fickle tomatoes or other nightshades. It’s also been known to increase the intensity of flavour in nearby plants, so plant it next to berry shrubs or strawberries for delectable fruit.
Do you grow flowers in your vegetable garden? What have been your most successful combinations so far? Let me know in the comments below!