Gardening with Natives & Veggies – Part 3 – From a Native Gardener’s View

My native gardening friends tend to prefer the “low maintenance” of native perennials for their garden. They love to feed the wildlife and so do I, to a point. My neighbor three doors down has a managed native meadow for a front yard and it is always fun to walk by and see what is blooming, or what birds are munching on the fall seed heads.  These are some of the delights of growing natives. They are not so picky about what soil they have, if you add compost each season or what native they are planted next to.

Yet, the low maintenance native garden approach leaves more time for other endeavors, and this is where the native gardener can grow a few things for them to eat.

swallowtail butterfly on queen anne's laceOne of the challenges a native gardener might have is all the wildlife they attract. This can be viewed as a problem, but it is my experience that an abundant mix in the right places gives everyone bounty. So here are my suggestions for native gardeners to add a few veggies for themselves without compromising their native gardens.  Native gardeners already tend to attract pollinators and other helpful insects to their gardens, which can give them an immediate advantage.

  • Containers on the deck: Adding one, two or a few containers on your deck is the first place I would recommend growing some veggies, or herbs as a native gardeners. This will not take up your native bed space, and be right out the back door for easy access. This is also the place least likely to be visited by larger animal critters.  You can grow anything you like to eat in a container, so choose a couple things you live to eat and start there.  You might want to give your tomatoes a screen to protect from birds, but small animals that would go onto your desk don’t tend to bother cucumbers, melons or squash.

    container garden on your deck
    Grow veggies on your deck away from deer
  • Let winter squash and pumpkins meander through your native beds. These crops are super low maintenance too.  They have a long “days to maturity”, meaning it takes a long time for them to ripen.   You can put in the plants, let them ramble and harvest them in autumn.  Then you’ll have some yummy squash in storage to enjoy all winter.

    large winter squash
    Let winter squash ramble like these Upper Ground Sweet Potato Squash next to native Asters
  • Add in a small fenced veggie garden close to one of your flowering native beds. Adding in a small veggie garden, with protection from wildlife can bring much joy and healthful food to your table. It is satisfying to sit at your table, eating some fresh picked veggies and watching all the buzz of life in your native garden beds. If you are new to veggie gardening, and want some tips, get in touch, I’d be happy to help!

    Native flower bed next to a veggie bed
    Native flower bed next to a veggie bed

Hope you have enjoyed this three part series on growing natives and veggies.  If you missed a part:

  • Part 1 covered three reasons to grow both natives and veggies.
  • In Part 2 we looked at the topic from the point of view of the veggie gardener, and
  • Here in Part 3, we saw three ideas for native gardeners to add some veggies.

Happy gardening, and if you have any topics you’d like me to cover, let me know.

Gardening with Natives & Veggies – Part 2 – From a Veggie Gardener’s View

Okay folks, lets look at gardening with natives and veggies from the veggie gardener viewpoint.  If you grow primarily vegetables and “savory fruits” such as tomatoes and squash in your garden, adding natives amps up your overall diversity as we saw in Part 1.

In addition there are several natives that can have direct benefit on your veggie production.  Lets look at a few of my favorites:

  • Blue Wild Indigo, Baptista australis: This beautiful 5’ tall native has beautiful blue-purple flowers in spring and is a member of the legume family of plants. Members of this plant family sequester carbon in the soil and the leaves can be cut down to add nitrogen to plants either around them or in your compost pile. Native bees love it, therefore attracting more pollinators to your landscape.

    bee visiting a wild blue indigo
    Wild Blue Indigo
  • Yarrow, Achillea millefolium: I love growing Yarrow, maybe because it is such a wonderful herb for stopping bleeding, but also because it will bloom all summer if you deadhead it and bring the flowers in for bouquets. The native common yarrow has creamy white flowers, cultivars have many others. Yarrow contains fairly high amount of calcium, which helps with the metabolic processes of plants taking up other nutrients. IT also help strengthen plant cell walls. High humidity, like we have here in Virginia, along with a cold winter can cause calcium deficiency, so plant yarrow, put the leave around your plants or in your compost to add calcium for your plants.

    Native White Yarrow
    Native White Yarrow
  • Joe Pye Weed, Eutrochium fistulosum: This beautiful tall, mid-summer flowering native is a pollinator magnet, and frankly, just darn beautiful. Its big puffy mauve flowers look wonderful at the back of a native flower garden bed, attracting so may different types of native bees and butterflies, you’ll want to stop veggie gardening and just watch the show. Perennial.

    Yellow Swallowtail butterlfy on Joe Pye Flower
    Yellow Swallowtail butterlfy on Joe Pye Flower
  • Goldenrod, Solidago spp.: Want to push the window on pollination into the fall. Then you want to add goldenrods to your landscape to attract those pollinators. This is really helpful if you love to grow fall peas like I do. Perennial.

    Goldenrod
    Goldenrods have cherry yellow flower in Autumn
  • Asters, Symphyotrichum spp.: Like Goldenrod, asters bloom later in the year, in autumn, thus they give you the benefits listed above for goldenrod, and give you more color in your garden as the weather turns cool. They also can make a nice cut flower for the vase.  Some are annual, some are perennial.

    purple aster flowers
    Native Aster flowers can be white, purple or pink.
  • Northern Maidenhair Fern, Adiantum pedatum: Got a shady area? Consider adding some of these ferns as they are a great toad habitat.  Toads eat bugs, so can help keep your bug population in balance and away from your veggies.

    northern maidenhair fern
    Northern Maidenhair Fern

So veggie gardeners, you can put in a flower bed of Blue Wild Indigo, Joe Pye, Yarrow, Goldenrod and Asters and have a beautiful garden area that blooms in spring, summer and fall.  Add some ferns to your moist shady spots and you’ve helped that native bee and toad population and your garden!

In Part 2 of this blog series, we looked at six native plants you can add to your landscape to benefit your veggie garden. There are many more, so I encourage you to add these and get in touch if you want more inspiration and ideas.

Check back or Subscribe to this blog to get notified for Part 3, when we look at the native, veggie gardening thing from the view of the native gardener.