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You know what?  I just love this time of year.  The garden is full of colorful, blooming plants and all the brown, crispy frost-damaged growth has been pruned away.

That was what my husband and I did yesterday.  We finished pruning off all of the frost damaged growth and everything now looks so much better.

I spent some time out in my vegetable garden, which has some winter vegetables still growing as well as summer vegetables.  I will show you more about my vegetable garden soon.

Alyssum, Marigold and Bachelor’s Button growing in the vegetable garden.
What really caught my eye were my beautiful, flowering companion plants in the vegetable garden.  What are companion plants you may wonder?  Well, basically they are plants that attract beneficial insects to your garden and/or repel damaging insects, which decrease or even eliminate the need for pesticides.
Alyssum growing beneath a San Marzano tomato plant.
 I just love the fragrance and delicate beauty of alyssum.  It also attracts bees to my garden, which help to pollinate my summer vegetables.

Marigolds

 Marigolds are a powerhouse in terms of repelling damaging insects.  The fragrance of marigolds is just fine with me and I just love their bright flowers.
Finally, I have a new flowering plant in my vegetable garden, which is not listed on any companion plant list, but it is just beautiful and was given to me by my fellow blogger Grace, who lives in Oregon, and has a fabulous blog called Gardening With Grace.  She was kind enough to send me some after I admired it in her garden.

I planted it in the corner of my vegetable garden last October and it started flowering just a few weeks ago.

Pink Oxalis

I just love how the little pink flowers are borne on top of clover-like leaves, don’t you?  I’m not sure how it will do with the summer heat, but the unknown is something that has always attracted me to gardening.  I do hope that it does well.  

In the meantime, whenever I look at this beautiful little plant, I am so thankful for Grace’s generosity.

If you would like to learn more about companion plants, you can check out this earlier post, where I list quite a few beautiful, companion plants.
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I hope your week is going well.  I had a bunch of consults earlier this week, but now I have a chance to catch my breath and have fun writing again 🙂


Please check out my latest blog post over at Birds & Blooms.

I must admit that I have really enjoyed sharing with you my favorite things…..


Not because I think you are all waiting with baited breath to hear more about what I like, but because when I think of my favorite things, it makes me happy.



My last favorite thing that I would like to share with you is a rather newer interest for me…..


I just love my new vegetable garden!

Now I have grown vegetables in the past.  I had my first vegetable garden in my parent’s backyard and remember growing carrots and broccoli.  But then I turned into a teenager and my budding interest in gardening was forgotten so that I could concentrate on more important things such as clothes, friends and boys 😉

In college, I had to grow vegetables for one of my horticulture classes and I worked hard on my school garden because I wanted to get an ‘A’ in the class.

As a professional, I have worked with clients, teaching them how to grow vegetables and I have also created vegetable gardens for service organizations.
But, I did not really get into vegetables until last year.  It makes me sad to think of how many years I wasted, not experiencing the joy of growing my own vegetables.

But, it is never too late to get started.  So, we selected an area in our back garden that received at least 6 hours of sunlight and then made the trip to our local big box store to get the necessary materials.


The kids were very excited too.

Because vegetables like fertile soil (who doesn’t), we bought bagged compost, aged steer manure, blood meal, bone meal and slow-release fertilizer.

Add some vegetable seeds for our summer garden and we were ready.

Now all we needed was the muscle…..

I’ve said it before and I will say it again….

Nothing says “love” more then a man who will shovel manure for you 😉

He even built the raised bed and fence for our garden.

Why did we need a fence, you may ask?

 
There are two reasons, named Tobey and Missy.

In our first summer vegetable garden, we grew basil, cucumbers, sunflowers, sweet corn, tomatoes and watermelon.

We even grew a pumpkin!



You know how people tell you that nothing beats the taste of vegetables that you grow yourself?  

They are totally right!  Our vegetables were delicious.  I just wished that we had more.

Soon, summer was waning and it was time to plant our winter garden.  So, we added some more bagged compost, a little slow-release fertilizer and we were ready to go…..



Lettuce, broccoli, spinach, bunching onions, carrots and garlic were planted along with companion plants such as Marigolds and Nasturtiums to help repel damaging insects.
It has been so nice to be able to pick my own lettuce instead of buying bagged salad at the grocery store.



We have eaten through the broccoli, lettuce and spinach.  Soon we will be able to harvest our carrots and garlic.


Soon, it will be time to plant my summer garden this March.  I plan to stick with cucumbers, corn, tomatoes, basil and sunflowers.  Growing watermelon and pumpkins was fun, but the vines took up a lot of room.



What about you?  Do you have a vegetable garden?  If so, what do you like to plant?

If you do not have a vegetable garden, why don’t you plant one?  You can dig one in your back garden or build a raised vegetable garden (they are available in kits as well).  

If you do not have much space, how much planting vegetables in a container?  You really can!

All of us (I hope) have experienced the benefits of having a good friend.  A good friend is someone that you can enjoy good times with, but they are also there to lean on in times of trouble and provide support.


Well, don’t you think your vegetables deserve the same benefits that friendship offers?

 
Now at this point, some of you may be thinking that I have finally turned into a crazy plant lady…..seriously – vegetables need friends?  Well, the answer is yes.  Vegetables do best when special ‘companion’ plants are planted among them.
 
Okay, so what does a companion plant do?  Well depending on the kind of plant, they can repel damaging insects and/or attract beneficial insects.  If you add companion plants interspersed throughout your vegetables, they will be much healthier and you will have fewer headaches due to fewer insect problems.
 
 
Here are some of my favorites…..
 
Alyssum (Lobularia maritima), not only has a beautiful, sweet fragrance, but they also attract butterflies and ladybugs which are important pollinators.  Insects that eat mealybugs, scale, thrips and spider mites are also attracted to the alyssum and will help to keep those damaging bugs away.
 
 
Bachelor’s Button (Centaurea cyanus), also attracts pollinators that are so important to the formation of your vegetables.  They also attract insects that will prey upon damaging insects such as scales and thrips.
Now who doesn’t love the bright flowers of Cosmos (Cosmos bipinnatus)?  Well your vegetables would love to be friends with them.  In addition to attracting insects that will feast upon mealybugs, Cosmos also serve a general deterrent to insects.
 
Pelargoniums commonly called Geraniums not only beautify your vegetable garden, but their distinctive smell deters many insects.
 
Anytime you encounter Lantana in full bloom, you may also notice butterflies hovering above, which serve as pollinators in the garden.  Lantana are also a magnet for the irritating whitefly.  By planting some Lantana in close proximity to your vegetables, the whiteflies will be so busy with the Lantana that they are more likely to leave your vegetables alone.  Try to think of it as a choice between eating an ice cream sundae or broccoli 😉
 
 I just love Lavender and now I have a reason to include it in my garden.  It serves as a great repellent for ants, aphids, fleas, ticks, mosquitoes and silverfish.  In areas where I used to work, it was one of only 10 plants that the rabbits and javelina would leave alone.  Butterflies and bees do not seem to share the same aversion to Lavender…..they love it.
 
Petunia hybrids are a very popular flower and it is easy to see why with their large, bright flowers.  But they also make great companions for vegetables (& roses) as well because aphids do not like them and tend to stay far away.
Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) isn’t just for cooking.  When in flower, bees are attracted to this wonderful herb and will often stick around to pollinate your vegetable flowers (yes, vegetables do flower and need to be pollinated).  It is thought that the aromatic fragrance of the Rosemary messes with the ability of damaging insects to detect delicious plants in the vicinity.
Anyone who has grown Sunflowers (Helianthus annuus), knows that bees are drawn to them.  Well, if you didn’t already know this…..bees are vital for a healthy garden.  Sunflowers also offer another benefit to the vegetable garden.  When planted on the west side of the vegetable garden, they will provide shade in the summer for your vegetable garden.
These are just a sampling of companion plants (and the only ones that I had pictures of).  There are many more wonderful companion plants:
 
Basil
 
Calendula
Catmint
 
Catnip
Chives
 
Coreopsis 
Dill
 
Fleabane
Marigold
 
Mint
Nasturtium
 
Sage
and 
 
Thyme
 
I currently have both Marigolds and Nasturtium growing inside my vegetable garden.  I am also (meaning my husband) in the midst of building a flower garden which will surround my vegetable garden.  I will include many of these companion plants as well as some purely ornamental flowers.
 
And so, if you have a vegetable garden that looks a little lonely, or if you are tired of the battle with damaging insects…..try bringing some ‘friends’ into your garden.  Your vegetables will thank you for it.