Essential plants for the kitchen garden

Essential plants for the kitchen garden

Rosemary attracts butterfly
A skipper visits a rosemary bloom. Low-maintenance and pollinator-friendly, herbs are a no-brainer for the kitchen garden.

Most of us like to experiment with growing our own food, even if it’s a simple patio tomato in a pot. Here are a few essential plants to include in your kitchen garden that will feed your family and attract local wildlife.

Low-Maintenance Herbs

Many herbs are low-maintenance and can be grown in the ground or in pots, making these plants a no-brainer. Grow your own to flavor food and beverages, make scented bouquets or infuse in oils. Kitchen herbs such as oregano, chives, thyme, rosemary, lavender and mint are highly favored by bees when allowed to flower. Make sure to put in extra parsley and fennel plants to feed the larvae of the black swallowtail butterfly. No kitchen garden is complete without herbs.

Fruit trees and shrubs

There are many fruit trees and shrubs that add beautiful flowers and excellent fall color. Apple trees, crab apples, and plum and cherry trees, among others, provide nectar for the native bees that emerge early in spring. Blueberry bushes are also a favorite for many types of bees, and provide a significant food source for the Southeastern blueberry bee. The leaves turn a beautiful bright red in the fall. You might also consider experimenting with less common native fruit trees, like the paw paw. The paw paw is a host plant for the zebra swallowtail butterfly.

Vegetables

The flowers of many vegetables are pollinated by bumblebees and honey bees, but they draw other visitors as well. Two native bee species are known as “squash bees” because of their dependence on squash flowers. Make some room in your kitchen garden for squash if you can (varieties known as “summer squash” tend not to vine and take up less space). Look closely in the afternoon and you could see male squash bees taking a nap in the flowers.

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