Non-invasive native plants can serve a useful purpose near a vegetable garden. I know this from experience as we’ve let a small section of ground near our victory bed naturalize.
Here’s the five benefits we’d discovered from having the beauties around:
1. Pollinators love ’em. When our bluebonnets are in bloom during the spring, the bees make quite a fuss over them–and then make a few stops to the nearby tomato blossoms, too. Since bluebonnets are early bloomers, the flowers serve to lure bees here before the garden’s blossoms get going.
2. They’re tough. With our stunning, record-breaking drought, it’s no big surprise that the natives are holding their own when fancy hybrids seem to want to take a lie down.
3. They’re easier to maintain than turf grass. For our tiny meadow at the rear of our property, there’s very little maintenance. So, if you’re interested in reducing your yard’s consumption of water (and mowing time), wildflowers are a great option.
4. They feed the birds. Many mornings I wake up to see the birds snacking on seeds released from flowers and grasses in the meadow. To deter the birds, we sometimes use a net, but I’ve noticed that they tend to steer clear of the veg bed when the black soaker hose “snakes” through the garden. Hummingbirds love ’em, too.
5. They lend a sense of place. I’m a big believer in gardening “for where one lives” rather than letting magazine pictures of somewhere else drive your choices. This place-centered approach tends to lead one to make more environmentally savvy choices, both in the landscape and in the vegetable bed.
While I don’t insist that every ornamental plant in our yard be a native, those bluebonnets and blackfoot daisies and other beauties remind us of the wonder that is the Texas hill country. And in a homogenized, consumer-driven world where even a whiff of authenticity can be a relief, our darling wildflowers remind us of our unique place in the world.