The full moon of May is known as the Flower Moon and for good reason. Once the snow melts, it’s as if someone flicked a switch, with flowers appearing almost overnight. First the dainty snowdrops, then the crocus. Hot on their heels are the daffodils, hyacinths, and forsythia. Racing up behind them are the tulips and bluebells, each jostling for centre stage.
It’s so lovely to see colour and new life in the garden and we can use the flowers to tell us when to plant annual vegetables. Using signs from nature is known as phenological gardening and I wrote about it in a recent blog post.
Of course, it’s still too early to plant out tender plants. May can also be the month for a Blackberry Winter, a colloquial expression used in south & midwest North America, referring to a cold snap that often occurs in late spring when the blackberries are in bloom.
Not only are the flowers useful for telling me when to plant, they are also loved by the honey bees. Right now the dandelions are in full flower and buzzing with activity.
Every year I intersperse my vegetables with flowers such as cosmos, zinnias and calendulas to draw the beneficial insects in. It makes the vegetable garden such a lovely space to be in and makes the chore of weeding so much more pleasant, listening to the hum of the bees while they gather nectar. It also ensures good pollination of my veggies.
Find my recipe here to make a dandelion marmalade that tastes of honey.
This year I plan to mix up the flowers and vegetables even more, both for my benefit and for the bees and I’ll be telling you about that later in the year.
A book that I refer to often is Great Garden Companions: A Companion-Planting System for a Beautiful, Chemical-Free Vegetable Garden, by Sally Jean Cunningham.
The book is full of suggestions on how to combine vegetables, flowers, and herbs to minimise pest and disease, while achieving a high-yielding and beautiful garden. Sally groups plants into “families” and “friends” to make garden “neighbourhoods”.
One of my favourites is the Cabbage neighbourhood. Calendulas, cosmos, and asters are grown amongst cabbage and broccoli, to attract parasitic wasps to control cabbageworm. White clover is planted as a ground cover to keep the soil cool and prevent weeds.
I transplanted Brussels Sprouts last week, as well as planting cosmos and zinnias amongst them, I also added dill. Now that the Lily of the Valley is in flower, I’ll start transplanting tomatoes, adding basil and marigolds at their feet.
Calendula is a regular in my garden, self seeding easily throughout the garden each year. I’m happy to let it run wild, flowering profusely to provide the petals needed for a healing hand cream. Learn how to make calendula & comfrey hand cream here.
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