Nasturtiums are great companion plants for cucumbers, squash, cabbages and squash (Image: zrenate/Pixabay/CC0)

5 Big Reasons to Plant Vibrant, Powerful Nasturtiums

Growing a vegetable garden is one of the best ways to lower food costs and ensure that you’re getting fresh, locally produced, organic fruits and vegetables. But organic gardeners have to find creative ways to combat disease and insects that will eat their crops. I learned today that one of my favourite flowers, nasturtium, is also a companion plant for a really wide variety of vegetables – and fruit trees too!

Companion plants can help to control insects by repelling them or making it difficult for them to find the host plants they feed on, or by acting as a trap plant that will lure hungry pests away from your food crops. Nasturtiums can do all of these things. And if you grow this plant with your tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuces and other plants, you can also pick its peppery flavoured leaves and sweet tasting flowers, and enjoy them in a salad or other dish alongside your vegetables!

According to the Cornell University Extension guide to companion planting, nasturtiums are good companions to a large number of plants in both the cucurbit and cabbage families. Nasturtium will repel a large number of insect pests such as aphids, slugs, and a variety of predatory beetles. They can also be planted as a trap crop that will lure away insects such as cabbage white butterflies (Pieris rapae and Pieris brassicae) and thrips (order Thysanoptera.) Rodale also suggests that nasturtiums provide a habitat for predatory insects like ground beetles and spiders, that will munch on insects pests.

Using Nasturtium to Grow Healthier Cucumbers

The cucurbit family consists of not only cucumbers, but also summer and winter squash, pumpkins, gourds, and melons. Many of these crops are improved by planting nasturtiums as a companion. Nasturtiums repel cucumber beetles (genera Diabrotica and Acalymma,) squash bugs (Anasa tristis,) and whiteflies (family Aleyrodidae) which attack the plants in this family.

Plant the flowers as a border around your cucumber patch, or simply allow them to creep in among the vines. They will provide ground cover between the plants, which also helps to deter insect pests. And of course, the gorgeous orange and red flowers will look fabulous growing side by side with the yellow cucurbit blossoms!

How Nasturtium Helps Plants in the Cabbage Family

A wide variety of plants belong to the cabbage (brassica) family. You probably know that cauliflower, broccoli and Brussels sprouts are brassicas, and you may also have made the connection with plants like kale. But did you know that kohlrabi, turnip, watercress, canola, and mustard are all brassicas too?

Nasturtiums repels aphids and the cabbage looper (Trichoplusia ni) when planted near vegetables in the cabbage family. You can also use them as a trap crop for cabbage white butterflies, which will attack the nasturtiums instead of your brassicas.

Nasturtium as a Companion Plant for the Nightshade Family

Many of us associate nightshade with poison, but there are several food crops that belong to this family as well. Tomatoes, potatoes and eggplant all belong to this family, as do chili and bell peppers. Plants in this family can fall prey to flea beetles and Japanese beetles. Tomatoes are also plagued by aphids and whiteflies, while potatoes can be attacked by Colorado potato beetle. Planting nasturtium around your nightshades can help to repel all of these pests.

Protect Your Fruit Trees with Nasturtiums

Nasturtiums will protect a large number of fruit from the Japanese beetle (Popillia japonica.) Many fruit crops are in the rose family. Think apples, cherries, peaches, pears, plums, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries and many other berries. Plant nasturtiums in a ring around the trunk of these fruit trees, or interplant them with crops like blackberries and raspberries. I think it would be very cool to plant trailing nasturtiums with strawberries in an overhead trellis!

Other Vegetables That Grow Well with Nasturtium

These vegetables can also be helped with a companion planting of nasturtiums:

Asparagus – Nasturtium repels asparagus beetle (genus Crioceris)

Beans, Peas, and other Legumes – Repels flea beetle (tribe Alticini,) Japanese beetle, Mexican bean beetle (Epilachna varivestis)

Carrot – Repels carrot fly

Celery – Use nasturtium as a trap plant for thrips

Corn – Repels flea beetle and Japanese beetle

Lettuce – Repels flea beetle

Radishes – Use as a trap crop for cabbage white butterflies

 

Featured Image Credit: Nasturtiums are a valuable companion plant by zrenate/Pixabay/CC0 1.0

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Published by

Kyla Matton Osborne

My passion for food stretches back pretty much as far as I can remember. I love to cook and to grow food. I especially love vintage recipes and learning about the history of different foods. I am passionate about biodiversity, food security, and heirloom gardening. Check out 24 Carrot Diet for tons of info on nutrition, healthy living choices, and fabulous vegetables you may never have tried before.

21 thoughts on “5 Big Reasons to Plant Vibrant, Powerful Nasturtiums”

  1. Wonderful lesson on the value of companion planting and the benefits of nasturtiums in the garden. My mom always planted nasturtiums along the borders of the vegetable garden. Flowers and kitchen herbs were her garden domain, vegetables my dad’s, and he liked his rows neat and tidy, so no nasturtiums nestled among the beans and melon, but all along the borders? Yes. Sometimes I think my mom was a subversive gardener–aiming for the permaculture method. Tee hee.

    Incidentally, nasturtium blossoms are delightful in summer salads. Only recently I learned that the leaves are edible too, though I haven’t verified that, so don’t take my word for it!

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    1. I can verify that the leaves are edible too, Kathryn! They taste sort of peppery, like watercress. They’re delightful in salads.

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      1. Oh, wonderful, and how beautiful they will be in a salad too. Now if I can just locate an organic gardener who needs a little nasturtium pruning!

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  2. I love nasturtiums, but so far I haven’t grown any here. I hope to be physically able to do more in my garden this year. All I have planted outside of edible flowers are kale and chard this year.

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  3. Love nasturtiums, did you know that you could eat them too……They have a peppery taste. I did not know that they repel Japanese beetles. I have planted them before and will plant more now that I know. Thanks for this information….

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    1. I adore eating nasturtium – both the flowers and the leaves! They would make a lovely pairing with the tomatoes or cucumbers they are protecting, or in any green salad 🙂

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  4. I always grow nasturtium around my veggies. The leaves are nice on sandwiches during the hot summer days when the lettuce bolts. Goes so nice with cool cucumber slices.

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    1. The leaves and flowers are also beautiful with heirloom tomatoes, or in a salad with your lettuces 🙂

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  5. I just planted mint, sage, garlic, parsley and basil. I am hoping they will do well, I do not have much of a green thumb. 🙂

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    1. Almost all of those plants are aromatic, and are good at keeping the bugs away. I’ve never grown garlic, but the herbs are fairly easy to grow once you get them to come up. Just watch that your mint doesn’t choke out the other plants! It’s known for spreading without control, unless you put down something to retain it.

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      1. I have them all separate right now, in their own pot. I don’t have much space for gardening, but am hoping to harvest some good herbs this year. I did hear that the mint will spread, I am not quite sure how to handle that. Do you think it will be okay in a large pot?

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      2. Mint should be well contained in a pot. If you ever decide to plant it in your garden, just keep a larger pot around it to give it a defined space to spread in – and no more than that! 😉

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  6. Thank you for the information. I will look if we have these plants in the Philippines. My garden is there😀 Have a nice day.

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    1. I don’t know if they’re common, but the plants should do well there if you can get the seeds. Be careful to ask for Tropaeolum flowers and not Nasturtium genus (which is actually watercress!)

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  7. I added nasturtium to my garden list, this is the year to plant an entire yard of mosquito repelling plants. Normally I grow herbs and have marigolds, but really like what I learned about nasturtium. Is it an annual or a perennial?

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    1. Nasturtium is an annual, but it’s really easy to save the seeds from one year to the next.

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    1. You can see an image of the nasturtium at the top of the page. The leaves are sort of like lily pads and the flowers are jewel-toned trumpets. They come in a range of reds, oranges and yellow, and you can sometimes find them in a sort of purplish colour too – kind of burgundy.

      Nasturtiums and marigolds would look awesome in the same flower bed, or as companions to the same group of vegetables. I got some really pretty nasturtium seeds that give two-tone leaves (green with white mottling.) They’re super pretty alongside other flowers in the garden! I planted them next to some pretty runner beans one year 🙂

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  8. Thanks for that, I will have to look these up for getting some. I get tired of looking at just marigolds out there

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