Does Having Flowers in the Garden Help Your Vegetables?

Maybe we should be thinking about which flowers, but attracting bees may help your vegetable production.

I have been confronted with the argument that if I am serious about vegetable production in my yard, then I should not grow anything that is not edible. I have been told to focus only on natives; imitate nature; improve on nature; and mix everything up when it comes to plantings. Reality sets in though when you are a gardener in an urban environment. Your neighbors may tolerate vegetables, but they may not tolerate your home looking like a farm. Someone noticed me planting chrysanthemums in my yard, and asked if they were edible? Not to my knowledge. They do have a nice light fragrance though. So why was I planting them? I like them, and my daughters enjoy flowers. What attracts me to garden mums is the display that they will put on each year. The plant is a perennial, so I leave them in the ground, instead of ripping them out like annuals after their prime. I like annuals, but I like the fact of not having to buy new plants each year as well.
    Can I justify valuable garden space to a non-vegetable? I like how my garden is evolving. The one, long bed on the other side of the driveway holds many vegetables, but to me it is almost looking like one of those English perennial hedges. I enjoy wandering into the bed to find something for dinner, but I am happy to be able to relish in the view of this bed. I may not make some urban farmers happy, but I think the permaculturist would be. Mixing the plant environment between edibles and non-edibles does fit in with a more natural plan, and one that I hope will reap some benefits: less pest damage. However, I began to consider are there other benefits to adding seasonal flowers into the garden? During the heat of summer, when many of my flowering plants were wilting, I did have a few vegetable plants attempt to produce. I did not harvest much. This may be in part due to the lack of bees. My youngest daughter and I were having lunch in a little garden seating area, watching the bees humming around the basil. We had been doing this for days, so we had observed how this frenzy of bees began with one bee. After a couple of days, we thought that we picked up on three distinct bees. On the fifth day, I am not sure how many bees were watching. The bees were not just focusing on the basil at this point. They were perturbed that we were sitting near the squash blossoms. They also hovered around the cucumber vine. 
    Vegetables near a mint that was in full bloom also saw more bee activity. The squash near my rose, which only seems to produce one flower a week, did not see much activity from the bees. I have to study this idea more, but I think the type of flower does play a role. My older garden mums are in their full prime of flowering, and I have not seen them attract to many bees. I have seen bees, but they prefer the flowers of herbs in my garden. Oh, I will find them en masse around the azaleas in spring, so I know herbs are not their only interest.  My field of pansies do not hold the interest of the bees. The thought gives me a reason to sit quietly in the garden for hours on end. I can start taking notes which plants will bring in the bees to help the vegetables produce. In the mean time, my daughters can pick the mums to scatter around the house as they always see fit.

With Drought and Water Restrictions, My Corn is Thriving


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Some plants do not seem to mind the imposed lack of water, and I was surprised to see some doing quite well. Here is what I have learned from the drought and water restrictions.

I have a lawn, yet I do not wish to be a grass farmer. I have seen a few neighbors let their grass die, and they have no other visual interest in their yard. Watching my yard carefully, I thought that established plants would be doing alright, and my plantings for an early fall crop would suffer. The gardener’s shadow proved me wrong. A gardener’s shadow? Well, it is the best tool that you have in taking care of your garden: your walking around the garden to observe the plants causes a shadow to fall. My shadow held surprises for me that will change what I plant next year.
corn growing in the heat Read the rest of this entry »

Hardy Volunteers: Letting the Seeds Fall


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My goal is to have a garden that has the plants return year after year without having to buy new ones. In other words, I am looking to make the garden sustainable through hardy volunteers.

The drought may be taking its toll; the heat and humidity has made some outdoor work unbearable; yet I have been delving into my garden. The biggest project, which is still ongoing, has been the treehouse. This is a platform above the shed, which is below the canopy of a tree.  This space has been great for lunches. Most other work has revolved in preparing the garden for different events around the home (my older daughter’s birthday being the prime event).  I still want to fuss with the plants, and somehow work more towards my vision of a sustainable garden. I saw that a few peanut plants were popping up, which made me think of hardy volunteers. I had never concentrated on peanut plants, but I think this one may have come from a squirrel dropping the seed. I did have a few lettuce plants grow from seeds that had fallen, so why not try again.
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Dealing with a Drought in Your Garden


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When is the last time you had rain? Parts of the country are experiencing flooding, and in Houston, we are dealing with higher than normal temperatures coupled with no rain.

My last water bill was quite high. My goal is to reduce my water consumption, so I was not too happy with my behavior that led to this unwanted expense. In my mind, I was justifying my actions with the fact that food prices are rising, and I am growing vegetables to counter those prices (a note in the grocery store today pointed out that many crops have been damaged by the weather, so prices will fluctuate). I was also thinking of my foundation. Keeping the ground at a consistent moisture level will help the house. However, this bill brought my focus back to my goal. Yes, I could justify my actions, but I could not really. I, like all of my neighbors, will have to make choices to deal with the drought.
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Vegetable Gardens in Pots


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Gardens in small spaces do well with pots, and vegetables can be added to the mix.



It feels too humid to work outside in Houston, and my summer cold does not help matters. My spring garden was not as vibrant as my winter garden, which I imagine is due to my lack of focus on flowering plants this year. I had flowers, just not as much as desired. Since redoing my patio, I have been adding more pots to the spaceto have this space feel alive. My girls have enjoyed working with the plantngs here. I guess that these are gardens which suit their size; although they do miss digging. Some work this past week was dedicated to cleaning up after the storm. My yard was not hit so bad, but I saw some serious damage to trees around the neighborhood..With the weather and work, having fun with pots seemed a good way to work in the garden. I wanted to add vegetables into the mix, then I heard that there are vegetable gardens in pots by city hall, so I jumped in.
    Summer is not a time when most people consider plantings for the vegetable garden, yet we do have a longer growing season in Houston, so there are plants that can be started now. As for vegetable gardens in pots, I think your choices may be limited. I have not been around all of the nurseries. Based on what I found at one, your choice for a pot will be herbs, tomato and pepper plants. This is if you want the instant garden. You can plant seeds, but who wants to wait when you have the pot on the porch. There is one plant that will add interest in your vegetable pot that you may not consider: purslane. Sometimes sold as portalucca or moss rose. This beauty is not considered a vegetable in the US (in fact, we consider it a weed growing from the cracks of our sidewalks), but it is eaten as a vegetable in Europe and the Middle East. I find purslane for sale at Phoenecia. This plant is often called salad herb. It does have a strong flavor, so go lightly on its use if you are not familiar with it.
    I have pickled the leaves, and this was well liked by the family. You can eat the plant raw in a salad, but it can be steamed. I added purslane to a pot containing a habenero  plant, and to a pot containing an eggplant. Eggplants grow well in pots, but I did not see them available at the store. Parsely is nice in pots, but I think chard with its yellow and red stems can be dramatic. The more that I look at vegetable gardens in pots, the more that I like the idea. They are great for those who do not want a new garden bed. Children like working with them. Vegetables can be quite beatiful. Finally you can have some produce to harvest just outside your door.

    Check out your local nursery. You may find some plants to make up a nice vegetable garden of your own for pots. I have never heard of anyone putting beans in a hanging basket, but I wonder how that would work. A tomato would flow down nicely from a hanging basket, so maybe I will try out some hanging baskets next.

Greetings

This site came out of my desire to write about my love of gardening, but also to connect it to my knowledge derived from home inspections. That is why I tied it to the home inspection site.If you have questions, you can email them to me (frank at yourhoustonhomeinspector.com). For home inspections, call 713.781.6090.
Happy gardening, Frank

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