As I sit in my study writing I can hear the welcome sound of rain falling in the night, as well as a chorus of crickets and the Labor Day fireworks at the racetrack nearby.
Summer is coming to an all too fast end, but for many of the annual flowers I grow in my kitchen garden it is peak bloom time. Over the next five nights I'm going to post about my top five kitchen garden annuals.
Here's my criteria to make the list: they must grow easily from seed sown directly into the garden, they must require little maintenance, they must bloom freely over a long time, and they must add both color and texture to the garden. Other criteria can vary—some of my favorites are edible, some feed birds and butterflies, and some make good cut flowers, while others are tricky to keep happy in a vase.
Why grow flowers in a vegetable garden at all? Well, the tradition of kitchen gardens is that they are places of beauty and comfort as well as food. Growing flowers among the vegetables also provides food for insects and birds that eat insect pests. And mixing the flowers and food crops makes it hard for those insect pests to find and eat the crops.
I'm going to write about the top five in roughly the order they bloom in my garden. Bachelor Buttons often winter over in sheltered spots, and they grow quickly to flower when sown before the last frost. By late June I have masses of flowers in colors from blue to red, sometimes edged in contrasting tones. The foliage is a pleasant soft gray-green, and the upright form contrasts nicely with my early greens and peas on their trellis. They are also edible, bloom a long time in big clusters, and can re bloom if the flower heads are cut off with hedge trimmers.
Here's a shot of a clump from a small packet of seeds I bought for 20 cents: