Nasturtiums N' Garlic Oh My!

Friday, May 7, 2010


Can we call this a case of "companion planting" that works?

I think so!

The latest sign of Spring that has finally Sprung in our North Natomas suburban farm is this test companion planting of garlic and nasturtiums in one of the raised beds near the back fence. This wasn't a mistake folks. Venus planted nasturtium seeds and garlic cloves at the same time last fall just to see "what happened."

And this is the show we're getting at the moment. It's just beginning too. For the longest time -- Venus was concerned that the large nasturtium plants growing within the garlic were not going to flower. But that thinking has changed just within the past week.

In other words -- the show is just getting started.

This isn't the only garlic and onion bed where Venus mixed in some nasturtium seed last fall -- but it does appear to be the most successful. The nasturtium plants have grown so large now that they're popping out of the garlic bed.

All appears to be well.

Score a big assist to fellow gardener Carri Stokes on this rather surprising development. I wasn't aware you could even grow nasturtium in Sacramento. Although it's a common sight on the coast of California (some might even call it a weed) -- I thought our climate was just a tad too hot for nasturtium to do well here.

Obviously -- I thought wrong. Carri informed us that she had successfully grown it from seed. We saw the proof in Carri's yard last spring. So -- Venus set about planting her own little nasturtium patch last fall.

Venus' favorite? So far -- that would have to be the "Creamsicle" variety sold in seed packets from Renee's Garden. "Flower treasures for the eye & heart," the packet claims. I guess I can't argue much.

As for me? I tend to like the sharper colors in the mounding "Cherries Jubilee," also offered through Renee's Garden. Venus and I picked up both packets last fall while shopping for seed garlic at Peaceful Valley Farm Supply in Nevada City.

What's the most unique thing about Nasturtium? Obviously -- it's more than just a pretty flower. These are EDIBLE flowers folks. Yes -- you heard me right -- you pull them right off the vine and eat them on the spot. Or -- you can save them to decorate the salad offering later that night.

What's that? What do they taste like? Well -- I suppose you have to try one and find out for yourself!

I'm not sure just how much of a show or harvest that we will get from this little "planting experiment." At some point -- the Sacramento summer gets to be just a tad too much for nasturtium. Like the artichoke plants that are planted nearby -- they will take on a rather unhappy look -- whither -- and eventually perish.

But -- score one for a companion planting experiment for now. Garlic + Nasturtium = SUCCESS!


Roya Rose said...

My nasturtiums do well all summer, Bill. Don't underestimate their resilience!

Bill Bird said...

Ours withered and died at some point last June -- but we planted late too. However -- I imagine they're not going to like it much when we start pulling up garlic later this month or the next.

Katie said...

I found our Nasturtiums did well with a little afternoon shade from a nearby tree. I wish I would have known about the garlic companion planting - it would have shaded the ground and kept it moist.

Jenn's Cooking Garden! said...

I did nasturtiums too, i thought they were not going to flower either and they just started. I have some with Brocoli and lettuce and some with my herb garden. They are very pretty and lush. Next year I may have to try the garlic as a companion.

Rhonda said...

I live by the bay and my nasturtiums do pretty well all summer -- and they come back like gangbusters the following spring, no help required! I have twenty times more nasturtiums now than I did when I planted a few two years ago. Delicious!

Anonymous said...

You can also eat the young leaves in salads, and the green seeds are sometimes pickled as a caper substitute. Both the flowers and leaves have a sharp, watercress-like flavor.
Helen B

Bill Bird said...

Yes -- I still monitor the blog. Perhaps too much! As I recall, that was one of our best years for growing garlic. We haven't had a lot of rainfall during the past two to three years, and although irrigation works, it can't replace what Mother Nature gives you directly in the form of soaking rainstorms. The year we put nasturtiums and garlic together, as I recall, was one our best. Why we haven't done it since is beyond me, but I plan to try it again this fall. No, planting nasturtium seeds among the garlic cloves did not hurt either the garlic or the nasturtium. Both did quite well together. But, again, we had something four years ago we haven't had since: HEAVY RAINFALL. I would so love a soaking this winter.