You may get better vegetable pollination when flowers are grown in a separate bed. Photo: urbanpollinators.blogspot.com
Two generations of gardeners have been raised on the concept that you can attract beneficial pollinating insects to vegetable beds by companion planting: placing flowering plants rich in pollen and nectar in among the vegetables. Plant a marigold, calendula or phacelia, etc. here and there among the vegetables and this will draw in pollinators like bees, butterflies and hoverflies that will then visit and pollinate flowering vegetables with less attractive flowers like cukes, squash, and melons. At least, that’s what we were told.
It’s a great idea in theory, but many gardeners are not finding they get a lot of pollinating insect visits when they put this into application. Apparently, just the occasional flowering plant isn’t enough of a magnet to draw in the number of pollinators you’d really need. You want masses of flowers.
That’s why the latest trend is to place the flowering plants in a separate bed right next to the vegetable garden: in other words, put in a flower garden! This pulls in many more insects (you’ll never have seen so many butterflies, for example!) This is now being done in many home and public gardens and the results are quite amazing. The flower bed buzzes with insects, so much so that this causes traffic jams, pushing some pollinators to look elsewhere while waiting for their turn … and that elsewhere will likely be the vegetable beds right next door.
This is the method now being used with great success in the Idea Garden in Longwood Gardens (Kennett Square, Pennsylvania). A long rectilinear cut flower bed cuts through the center of its vegetable beds, assuring plenty of pollinators for needy vegetable plants on either side.
With more and more gardeners complaining they’re just not getting pollinator traffic they used to, often obliging them to hand pollinate their veggies, this is certainly a method you might want to explore.
30 Flowers to Try
Among the many flowering plants that you could put in a pollinator-friendly flower bed are the following:
- Anise hyssop (Agastache spp.)
- Aster (Aster spp., Symphotrichum spp., Eurybia spp., etc.)
- Bachelor’s buttons or cornflower (Centaurea cyanus and others)
- Bee balm or bergamot (Monarda spp.)
- Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia spp.)
- Blazing star (Liatris spp.)
- Borage (Borago officinalis)
- Buckwheat (Fagopyrum esculentum)
- Butterfly weed (Asclepias spp.)
- Calendula or pot marigold (Calendula officinalis)
- Celosia or cock’s comb (Celosia spp.)
- Chives (Allium schoenoprasum)
- Coreopsis (Coreopsis spp.)
- Cosmos (Cosmos spp.)
- Echinacea or purple coneflower (Echinacea spp.)
- False Queen Anne’s lace (Ammi majus)
- Foxglove (Digitalis purpurea)
- Goldenrod (Solidago spp.)
- Lantana (Lantana spp.)
- Lavender (Lavandula spp.)
- Lupin (Lupinus spp.)
- Marigold (Tagetes spp.)
- Phacelia (Phacelia spp.)
- Phlox (Phlox spp.)
- Scabiosa or pincushion flower (Scabiosa spp.)
- Stonecrop (Sedum spp.)
- Sunflower (Helianthus annuus)
- Tall verbena (Verbena bonariensis)
- Yarrow (Achillea spp.)
- Zinnia (Zinnia spp.)