While the common nasturtiums that proliferate in many garden beds nowadays look right at home, they actually trace their origins to the tropical and subtropical mountains of the Andes. With broad lily pad-shaped leaves and cheerful, saturated shades, nasturtiums are brilliantly hued flowers that offer a variety of benefits. Every part of the plant is edible and can be used for medicinal and culinary purposes. Seen cascading from raised beds to adorning pots and borders, nasturtiums are the quintessential summer plant for all types of gardens. Below is a list of reasons why you should plant this versatile, low-maintenance herb.
1.They are easy to grow.
Nasturtiums are sturdy, drought-resistant annuals that are able to tolerate a variety of soil conditions, including poor, rocky, and subpar soils. They are commonly grown in nitrogen poor soil, which help encourage flower production. Do not fertilize – nitrogen rich soils can result in large foliage but fewer flowers. They can also tolerate partial shade but will not bloom as abundantly.
Many vegetable gardeners intersperse nasturtiums among their vegetables for both its ornamental and pest repellent qualities. While nasturtiums only live for a year, perishing come winter frost, they will self-seed readily, with seeds lying dormant for months suddenly springing to life.
2.They are beneficial to vegetable gardens.
Not only do nasturtiums add bright visual interest to vegetable gardens, but they also maximize the space in your garden by providing several beneficial effects. Able to repel pests and attract beneficial insects, nasturtiums are an invaluable companion plant. Though they have been known to attract cabbage moths and aphids, many gardeners deliberately use them as a sacrificial trap crop so that food crops are spared.
- They have pest repellent properties. Nasturtiums can repel cabbage, squash bugs, and other beetles. Fully edible, they help keep thrips and aphids off of your tomato plants and legumes. Many gardeners plant them alongside their vegetables as a trap crop to draw away pests that can cause damage to crops.
- They attract beneficial insects. Though nasturtiums are often overlooked as pollinator plants, bees, hummingbirds, and other beneficial pollinators are drawn to their sweet nectar. The ‘Orchid Cream’ variety has striking raspberry markings intended to attract pollinators to their centers. They will also attract hoverflies, a beneficial insect that preys on aphids.
- They enrich poor soils. A little-known benefit is that nasturtiums can improve poor soils. After they have withered, allow them to fall to the ground and rot, where they will add nitrogen, calcium, and other minerals to the soil.
3.Nasturtiums are edible.
The practice of incorporating edible flowers into your diet may seem odd and old-fashioned, but they can add decorative appeal as well enhance the flavor of your dishes. The flowers, leaves, stems, and seed pods of the nasturtium plant are all edible. Possessing a piquant, peppery taste, the leaves and flowers can be used as garnish or as seasoning in soups and pasta. Due to their flavor, the seeds are sometimes called “poor man’s capers” and are used as a substitute, but they are more peppery.
4.They have medicinal properties.
Nasturtiums are high in antioxidants and nutrients, including vitamin C, iron, and manganese. During the Victorian era, they were used as a treatment for scurvy due to their high vitamin C content. Believed to have anti-inflammatory and antibiotic properties, they have been used to treat wounds and reduce the severity of infection. In antiquity, they were reportedly used by the Incas of Peru as a salad vegetable and as a medicinal herb, using it to treat respiratory infections and cuts and burns.
If you feel a sore throat or cold coming, drop a few leaves in a salad to alleviate symptoms. However, you should always exercise caution when using herbs to treat maladies – especially in copious quantities – they should not be a substitute for medical treatment. In addition, people with kidney problems should speak to their doctors before consuming the plant.
5.They can be styled with trellises.
A trellis or fence is an easy way to expand your garden space, especially if you are space constrained. Fruits, vegetables, and fresh herbs grown vertically are often healthier and highly productive. Vego Garden’s Wall Trellis System, which can be purchased to fit various configurations, is an innovative way to create more space in your garden. Tomatoes, beans, and nasturtiums can all be attached to a trellis. Climbing varieties can be trained to trail on trellises, fences, and stakes for a cascade of fiery blooms – just place it near the structure. Style it next to climbing beans to lure away pests, or next to flowering plants like lobelias and geraniums for a splash of color.
6.Nasturtium can be adjusted to fit any garden.
Whether you opt for a mounding variety to fit in a container or a trailing variety to attach to trellises, nasturtiums are a great addition to any landscape. Ideal for a wide range of uses, from lush ground covers to cascading hanging baskets, their deep, jewel-like tones provide a riotous bouquet in the haze of midsummer. Their culinary, medicinal, and ornamental properties make them popular for apothecary, cottage, and vegetable gardens, though they can be incorporated into any type of garden setting with ease. Evoking the dreamy, free-spirited aesthetic of the countryside, nasturtiums can be grown with an assortment of low-maintenance edible and native plants.
7.They come in a dazzling array of colors.
Available in shades of scarlet red, burgundy, yellow, and orange, those uniquely-colored impart a splash of color to an otherwise dull yard. Some rarer varieties carry striking shades with striated markings. The pastel color of the ‘Creamsicle’ variety conjures up images of orange sherbet in the summertime while the maroon-colored ‘Black Velvet’ provides a stark contrast between its dark blooms and bright yellow centers.
8.They can be used as a cut flower.
Roses take the spotlight in flower bouquets, but nasturtiums are wonderful as cut flowers for those that eschew the stiff and formal arrangements often found in professional settings. Cut a few from your garden and place those vibrant flowers in a simple glass jar to brighten up a windowsill or table.
9.Good for those who raise chickens.
Packed with nutrition, especially in vitamin C, nasturtiums are an excellent food source for chickens. The antibacterial properties also help in suppressing bacteria and parasites that chickens are susceptible too. However, if you are worried about your chickens pecking at your plants, then implement a cover system to shield off pests.