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I love to grow plants and veggies and I particularly love plants that spread all over the place and grow quickly. The Nasturtium is a colourful, low spreading plant which comes in a variety of colours and leaf patterns. There are climbing varieties (great for walls), hanging varieties, compact ones and great big luscious varieties that offer colour all summer long.
This has to be one of the easiest plants to grow. They thrive in poor soil and can even grow in the tiny cracks in old stone walls. The bonus of growing Nasturtiums is that when they do go to seed, you can collect the fat, wrinkley seeds and re-plant them out in the spring, making them a very economical plant to grow. They also act as a pest deterrent, and as I will not ever use slug pellets or the like in my garden, they attract the slugs away from my Brassicas.... (that sounds a bit Les Dawson...)
The humble Nasturtium is an annual plant whose flowers and leaves are edible. The have wide oval leaves with attractive veins and bright large flowers. They are not a delicate plant, these grow quite rapidly and spread across the ground. The leaves and flowers are large and showy, and they bring a real brightness to the garden with their summery colours. My favourite varieties have the sunset colours, the oranges, yellows and reds, but there are almost black ones available to if you fancy a bit of Goth gardening.
COST: I save the seeds from mine, but I love them so much that I always buy more each year. They usually cost around 99p a packet online (for between 25-60 seeds, dependant upon variety). If you are feeling really flush, you can buy the creamy and dark red ones for a whopping £1.99 a pack...
Nasturtium seeds can be sown directly into the ground in the spring. They do not need to be buried deeply into the soil and once planted they can be pretty much left alone. Although they do like a sunny patch, they seem to tolerate all conditions. Certainly Nasturtiums are not keen on overly rich soil and do not need any kind of feeding, indeed if your soil is too nutrient rich, you will get fewer flowers.
Once planted, the seeds will sprout through the top soil in around a week to ten days. The initial tendrils are a light lime green colour, and once sprouted the plant will grow quickly.
The flowers and leaves can be picked all throughout the growing season, for medicinal use or for salads.
This needs to be verging on the neglect side. You will probably not need to water them unless we get a very hot summer (ha ha - as if!), otherwise leave them be. Too much water will kill them. To get the maximum blooms from your plants, deadhead them when you can. If growing these in pots, then you may need to give them a trim occasionally.
Nasturtiums do not like frost and will go a translucent colour and die back. Eventually you will be left with a type of straw which is easy to pick up and compost. If you have not collected the seeds then you will find loads underneath the foliage as they start to die back. Collect these up, let them air dry and replant them next spring, or leave them where they are to grow again next year. They can be protected by a light covering of top soil.
Many insects are attracted to Nasturtiums which makes them superb for companion planting. Shove a load around a veggie patch and you will have far less trouble with creatures eating your veg and salads. Caterpillars in particular LOVE Nasturtiums and every year we have loads and loads of them munching their way through them. I grow so many that I still have more than enough for ground coverage and colour, so I leave the "pests" to get on with it. You will also find slugs and certain types of fly feeding on your Nasturtiums. Again, this takes them away from my veggies so I do not mind.
WHERE TO PLANT:
I plant the bulk of mine along the front path as they have a spectacular display of colour which lasts for months. The rest go to the veggie patches and pots. They are mainly used here for the Brassica family (cabbages, broccoli etc) and salads. Blackfly are very fond of Nasturtiums, so plant them where blackfly are a problem on your veggies. They grow well under fruit trees/bushes and attract the pests away from the fruit. They also help with pollination as they attract bees and butterflies. Ants do not like them as the Nasturtium contains a mustardy oil so plant these near your kitchen.
Both the leaves and flowers can be eaten, they have a peppery taste rather like watercress. To compliment the pepper quality, I use sweet lettuces, apples and carrots mixed in with shredded leaves. We eat the flowers whole or stuff them like a courgette flower (cream cheese is good). The leaves go very well with houmous on wholemeal bread.
The leaves can be shredded and added to a bath, to encourage the oil to come out of the leaves. The oil is antiseptic and good for wounds. Traditionally the leaf juice was used as a cure for baldness as it was said to stimulate hair growth.
Eating the leaves gives you a Vitamin C boost, and the plant is antibacterial and anti-fungal. I expect that you would have to eat a lot to gain these effects. As the leaves and quite astringent, I have used them in a cleansing bath scrub (sea salt, shea, juiced Nasturtium leaves, tea tree and fresh mint).
I love these plants and have managed to grow them directly, in pots and in baskets. Every year they come back and fill my garden with sunshine and they provide an oasis for big fat bumble bees. I have grown them for so long that cannot imagine a garden without Nasturtiums in it, and alongside Calendula they are the most prevalent plant in my garden. They truly are idiot proof, and are so low maintenance that they are the perfect starter plant for children.
The cheapest seeds that I have found online are on Amazon, starting at just 99 pence for 40 seeds (from Premier seeds direct. I have purchased many seeds from this company and they are excellent). I would encourage anybody who is not green fingered to try these plants as they are very hard to kill!
10/10 for colour, ease of growing, longevity and showy displays.
To my great amusement, it horrifies my daughters when I go all "Hugh Kills-and-eats-it-all" and eat flowers from the garden. Dandelion fritters, Nettle soup and nasturtium salads always get cries of revulsion and looks of disbelief from my two angels, who (sadly) believe that you can only eat food that has been bought from a supermarket and is nicely packaged without a trace of soil on it. Nasturtiums are a pretty way of adding colour to unloved, poor soil areas of the garden and can be eaten too. Here's some tips on how to grow your own, and what uses nasturtiums have other than just a flower to be looked at and have their bright colours enjoyed.
Nasturtiums are thought to have come from Peru, brought to Europe by Spanish explorers in the 1600's. The name "nasturtium" is latin and when literally translated it means "nose twister" - probably a description of the hot peppery taste which is not dissimilar to cress. Thanks to some clever botanists and commercial seed producers, you can now get both compact dwarf and climbing / rambling varieties, in many different colours from deep purples to bright sunny oranges, yellows, whites and reds.
GROWING YOUR OWN
Seeds can be planted directly outside into the soil from late March / early April onwards in most areas of the UK. To help them start to germinate, they can be soaked in water overnight. They take about two months to grow before you start to get any flowers showing. They do best in poor soil, so are perfect for that bare muddy patch next to the shed in the corner of the garden that embarrasses you a bit. The poorer the soil, the more flowers they will produce, and alternatively if the soil is very rich, they will produce an abundance of foliage but not many flowers. The reason for this is sex - nasturtiums are desperate to sow their seed and have a libido that would make the average teenage lad blush. They are obsessed with a need to reproduce, and if they sense that the soil in which they grow isn't capable of sustaining much life, they will produce a mass of "sex organs" in the form of flowers in the hope that the more seed they spread, the more likely they are to reproduce. The dirty little so and so's, spreading their seed all round my yard, and to think I let my children play out amidst such a den of erotic iniquity.
If you have the climbing / rambling type, you may want to think about the space into which you are going to direct their growth - be it upwards or along the floor. Common rambling types include Jewel of Africa (these have white, red and yellow/orange flowers along their long vines) and "Climbing Mixed" (predominantly red and yellow flowers). They can be trained up a trellis, trailed from a hanging basket or just left to weave their way around the floor.
For dwarf or compact bush types, these do best in pots or used as edgings for borders and won't stray far like the rambling types. Common dwarf types include "Tip Top Apricot" (lovely peachy coloured flowers that sit nicely on top of the foliage) and "Empress of India" (which have a very richly coloured deep red flower).
Most nasturtiums like a sunny spot; remember that these are plants native to South America, but nowadays you can get varieties which tolerate a bit of shade. Once they start to flower, they'll keep going all through the summer and most of mine last till October. I've also found that picking the flowers off will encourage them to produce more, similar to sweet peas. Picking the flowers off will deprive the plant of its desire for some "plant sex", so it teases them into producing more. Who thought that gardening could be so erotic?
Nasturtiums make excellent companion plants - meaning that they will benefit the other plants in your garden simply by their presence. They attract blackflies which can ruin broad bean plants, so if you've got broad beans in your garden, plant some nasturtiums nearby and the blackflies will prefer these instead. Another way you can use nasturtiums as a "sacrificial offering" to insects is to plant them alongside cabbages. They are more of a draw to the cabbage white butterfly than cabbages are, so hopefully the resulting caterpillars will chomp through your nasturtiums instead of your cabbages.
As mentioned before, the flowers can be eaten and give a great little peppery kick to salads, as well as adding a bit of colour to break up the monotonous green of most salads. I've heard you can also eat the big green leaves, but I've never tried this so can't comment. When the flowers die off and start to go to seed, the wrinkled little green seeds can be picked off (before they dry out) and pickled in vinegar to be eaten later. As I have a violent aversion to vinegar, I've never tried this but there are plenty of websites which give you information on how to pickle nasturtium seeds and apparently they taste like capers. Never try to eat seeds from a packet - these are not for eating and most likely will have been coated in fungicides to stop them from rotting in the packet, only eat seeds from nasturtium flowers you have grown.
Nasturtiums have some health benefits too - they are a good source of vitamin C and contain antioxidants which are useful for warding off various types of cancer. However, if you eat too many, then the high oxalic acid content can damage the kidneys. So, as with all things, eat in moderation as part of a balanced diet.
These are fairly easy to grow and don't require huge amounts of care and attention - so long as they get watered once or twice a week they will quite happily grow away and aren't as attention demanding as say, trying to grow your own melons. Their attractiveness to insects makes them good protectors of cabbages and broad beans, and they provide a peppery food source which adds a bit of a colourful twist to salads. Seeds are widely available at all the usual places - Wilkinsons, garden centres etc and can be as cheap as 30p, so shop around. Thanks for reading.
My father and I like growing Nasturtiums in our hanging baskets, as they trail quite nicely and are extremely brightly coloured, with mainly oranges, reds and yellows.
The leaves can be quite large and look rather like a water lily. They can grow quite tall - my father has some soil in old chimney pots and the plants are almost the same height! This year, my dad bought some seeds and just planted them straight into the old soil from the previous year. This is because he has been told/read in a newspaper article that they prefer poorer soil. He therefore was experimenting as to whether they'd sprout and/or survive. They are one of his best plants this year!
We bought another set of seeds and planted them in trays, which have then been transplanted into pots and then eventually at the end of May into the hanging baskets (the ones that my brother didn't take for his garden), to see which were best. I believe that the best ones are in the poorer soil, but my hanging basket just outside my back door is now flowering quite well - with mainly red flowers. My dad appears to have a much more mixed set of colours at his house.
The two packets of seeds were both set about the same time and I think that almost all of them germinated because between us we must have got nearly a 100 plants. The ones that are left over I intend to sell on a St John stall sometime soon, if possible.
As I didn't put them in poor soil because I used new compost, and they can be put in old compost, in the hanging baskets, I neglected to water my baskets for a couple of days (although it did rain one day) to give them a chance to adapt to their surroundings. This doesn't appear to have harmed them in any way and they are thriving! Lots of leaves and less flowers but if they were in poorer soil the opposite would be true. For some inexplicable reason, they like to be neglected - possibly to prove how well they can cope on their own!!!! LOL.
I have never tried eating them but am aware that the flowers (not sure about the leaves) CAN be edible and are often added to salads to add colour, variety and texture. I don't think that I'll be trying that though!
In conclusion, if you are not much of a gardener, then I heartily recommend trying these to encourage your "green fingers" to sprout.
When you get tired of gardening these flowers you can always eat them! They are rich in vitamin C and the blooms and leaves are edible.
Let's start at the beginning. Nasturtiums or Tropaeolums (or is it Tropaeola to be exact?) are very simple to grow. You can plant the large seeds that look like grapenuts in any kind of soil. It doesn't matter if it's blazing hot, or not, these amazing flowers seem to thrive anywhere. No special preparation, just throw them in.
From one single seed you gentle masses of leaves and loads of bright orange, yellow and redish blooms. There are trailing varieties that climb up walls and fill in gaps between other plants and other more compact varieties.
What they have in common is that they are easy for even the laziest of gardeners to grow. (I know about this as I have spent years trying to find plants for lazy gardening. I couldn't manage any other kind.)
The common nasturtium produces lots of seeds too. So once you have planted them in your garden you always have them popping up all over the place. I saw only a couple last summer but this year they are all over the flagstones by my hedge, as if by magic.
One of the less common varieties of nasturtium is the Trapaeolum Perigrinum, or Canary Creeper. It's leaves are not rounded like the common variety, they have three distinct lobes on them. The flowers are bright (canary) yellow and like the common variety there are lots of them. Seeds are produced in large numbers so you will have your own seed after the first year, ready for the next season.
There are a couple of other rare varieties of nasturtium for the collector. Among these are the Scottish Flame Flower which has red blooms and likes a poor, preferably acidic soil. Strangely enough, this particular variety doesn't readily produce seed so it's only posssible to propagate from live shoots. Another rare variety is the Trapaeolum Tuberosum which grows from tubers. This is a very energetic climber but the tubers are not hardy and have to protected from frost in winter.
I am not sure about the taste of these two as I have only eaten the common variety. Perhaps it would be best to err on the side of caution and stick to the common for ones for eating. Apart from the obvious caution here, rare varieties are very expensive and more difficult to propagate, so you wouldn't really want to eat them.
Once you've grown all these gorgeous varieties of nasturtium you can settle yourself and enjoy a veritable feast of succulent, fresh tasting leaves and flowers from the common ones as you enjoy looking at the others. Eat straight from the plant as nature intended, or add them to salads. Delicious!
(Now I just have to find a way to get one of those chocolate smelling plants to produce bars of choccy and I'll be happy!)
With a mass of bright blooms in shades of orange, yellow and red, nasturtiums can turn the dullest garden or window sill into something resembling a a lush, exotic jungle.
What's more, they are easy enogh to grow for beginners, undemanding, and they provide us with fresh, healthy food.
They are annuals, which means they'll flower all summer but then they die. However, I found that in a mildly-heated green house or indoors in a sunny spot they can live and flower through winter.
Nasturtiums grow to around 30cm height; if you give them a trellis to climb up on, they can reach 3m.
There are many varieties, including some which are partiuclarly vigorous climbers; and some which have specific colours, for example, yellow only.
Personally, I like it when they cross-pollinate, which leads to lots of different shades and shapes, and I adore them all.
WHERE TO GROW
Nasturtiums look great at the front of a flower-border. Because of their trailing habit, they are spectacular for containers and hanging baskets. They also flourish on a window sill.
The one thing nasturtiums are fussy about is sunshine. They need light; the more the better. They'll grow in shade, but won't give many flowers.
They ask for nothing else. They don't want manure, fertiliser, lime or any of the treats other plants demand. Indeed, the poorer the soil, the more they'll flourish.
I like t plant them in the compost of last year's growbags, where the tomatoes have already sucked out all nutrients. Nasturtiums will love it.
HOW TO SOW THEM
I don't recommend buying plants, because they are so easy to grow from seed. Buy a packet, or beg some seeds from a neighbour.
In spring, put the seeds into pots or seedtrays on the windowsill or in the greenhouse. When the danger of frost has passed (date varies depending on where you live, but usually May), plant them where you want them to grow.
You can also plant the seeds in autumn; then they will flower earlier the next year.
Alternatively, just put the seed in the ground where you want them to grow, in early summer.
I'm always surprised how expensive nasturtium seeds are in the shops: I've seen them pricedup to £3.90 for 10 seeds.
I'll let you into my secret: I bought one packet of seeds ten years ago - and never purchased another one. Instead, I let my plants produce the seeds.
Every flower, if visited by pollinating insects, will produce about three seeds - unless of course you eat the flower first.
Since each plant produces dozens or hundreds of flowers in the course of summer, that's potentially a lot of seed.
Pick them when they are big, round and ripe and come off easily. Put them on a plate or in a shallow bowl anywhere in your home until they're dry. During the drying process they'll shrivel to a fraction of their original size, but that's no problem. Once dry, store them in envelopes or containers.
In my experience, almost all hand-gathered seeds pollinate. So if you collect your nasturtium seeds, you can also provide your friends and neighbours with seed.
If you sow your own-harvest seed, you may find that the number of colours and varieties increases every year, because the bees have been visiting other gardens, too.
1. Caterpillars! These are the nasturtium's enemies. It's the pretty cabbage white butterflies that lay their eggs on the underside of the leaves. The eggs hatch caterpillars, who can devour a whole plant within days.
Chasing the butterflies away won't help, they'll just come again. Pesticides are effective, but don't last long, so you'd have to repeat them, and they can harm the pollinating insects. Picking off caterpillars by hand is better, but I don't enjoy it.
My solution: on days when cabbage whites flutter around your plants, inspect your nasturtiums and pick off the leaves which have clusters of tiny yellow eggs on their underside, before they have a chance to hatch.
2. Blackfly! This tiny insect, an aphid, appears in masses of hundreds. They usually sit on or near the stem. Insecticides are very effective; but please spray in the evening, when the bees and other friendly insects have gone to bed.
Better still, wash the plants with soapy water. Any soap will do, it doesn't have to be a special insecticide soap. I've heard that diluted washing up liquid also works. A spray bottle works best. A small quantity of soap won't harm the soil, but you can always place a towel on the ground to soak up the dripping water.
Don't plant your nasturtiums near broad beans, which are also prone to blackfly, or the beasties will think you've opened a restaurant for them.
3. Lots of leaves, few flowers! Move them to a sunnier place, or put them on a stricter diet. Remember, they don't like rich soil or fertiliser.
HOW TO EAT THEM
The flowers are delicious - quite peppery. Strangely, some blossoms taste mild and others very hot, even when they come from the same variety. I use them a lot as garnish, and on top of green salads, where the colouor contrast is most effective.
The dark green leaves are too peppery to eat on their own, but they add spice to tossed salads, especially with tomatoes. Use only the young leves, they taste best. You can also add leaves to stewes and casseroles, but I don't normally bother. I like edibles which don't require cooking.
The seeds are also edible. You can pickle them; apparently they taste like capers. I haven't tried this because I'm not keen on capers.
MY FAVOURITE FLOWER
Every year, I grow lots of nasturtiums and plant them not only in the garden, but in my little greenhouse. On chilly, rainy days I sit in my folding chair in the greenhouse, surrounded by a jungle of brightly coloured, climbing blossoms. I'll read a book, or write a book, or just daydream.
Sometimes I mix myself an exotic fruit drink and enjoy having a tropical holiday in rainy Britain.
Nasturtiums must be one of the easiest plants to grow - both in sun and in shade. They don't ask to be fed, don't ask for specific soil types but are happy just to pop up wherever you throw them. An added bonus is that, if you leave some of the beautiful bright blooms to seed, you'll get Nasturtiums shooting up again next year. They have such distinctive leaves that you're unlikely to mistake them for weeds (unlike most self-sown seedlings). They spread quite extensively so you don't need many plants to fill a flower bed. Not only are they beautiful - almost garish bright reds, oranges and yellows - which would brighten the dullest garden, they're extremely tasty when added to salads, and have a watercress type pepperiness. Nothing goes to waste - you can eat the leaves, flowers and seed heads. I've found that they grow very well in hanging baskets so I have a constant supply of salad right outside my back door. Unfortunately, they do attract blackfly and I would recommend that, at the first sign, you either treat with a non-toxic bug spray or remove any infested leaves or flowers and throw them away. They're a superb "starter" if you're just getting into gardening and there aren't many plants that can fill a border, provide a riot of bright colour in Summer months and be eaten too, all for about £1 for a packet of seeds!!
Nasturtiums are a great herb to have around the garden, not only can you eat the whole plant which is high in vitamin C and benefits our health, it is an attractive flower and adds colour to any garden. The compact variety is great for small places or tubs whilst the trailing variety can fill hanging baskets and look great. There are lots of different colours to choose from, that choice is yours. From vibrant reds to pale yellows. The seeds are fairly large so they are easy to handle.The seeds germinate in about a week and start to flower about a four weeks later. So no more long waiting periods to see your results if you are impatient like me. They will self seed and come back the next year if we have a mild winter. If you don't trust the british weather, pick the seeds off the plant and keep them indoors till next year. Having said that if you did loose your nasturtium seeds because of a bad winter the price of a pack of 25 seeds will not break the bank. Prices start from £1 upwards. You can buy them from most garden centres. PLANTING TIME. Plant the seeds after the last frost, plant them in the ground or suitable containers as mentioned earlier on. Plant the seeds half an inch down. It does not matter if you have got poor soil, nasturtiums aren't fussy about that. They do prefer sunny positions though and produce more flowers in the sun than if placed in shady places. The large roundish leaves have a pepperish taste, not unlike watercress and they give a welcome Zing to the salad, or you can use them on sandwiches just as you would use general salad stuff. The trumpet shaped flowers are rather bland in taste but very colourful and make any dish attractive, float a flower on a pale soup or garnish a prawn cocktail. Pickle the seeds whilst still green and use as false capers. Or grind the dried seeds in a pepper mill, and use them like black pepper. If yo
u see any sign of insects on your nasturtiums (if you plan to eat them) Never use pesticides on them, just spray them with soapy water to kill the insects. I hope you enjoy your nasturtiums use your imagination in food preparations and enjoy. My final thought is I love zingy taste of them, they are easily grown and add colour to gardens and food.
Nasturiums are a garden flower I came across about 10 years ago and my summer garden has never been without them since. They demand very little and do so well in poor soil,thrive the drought and just love the sun shining directly on them. It is best to just purchase a packet of seeds and sow directly as they come up so easily and are a nice large seed so you can space them where you want. You can also sew in between plants in your window box and they trail and fill in bare spots beautifully.Or also are useful in hanging baskets. I saw them at Monet's garden in Giverney years ago. Huge leaved ones that I have only found seeds for in the past few years. In the USA they are called Giant Climbing Naturiums.I line my beds with those large type. There are smaller trailers to grow on wires or string,and this year I have found some fragrant types. There is one called Alaska that has beautiful varigated leaves for those wanting something unusual. They come in so many beautiful colors yellows,reds,pinks,mahogany,rose,apricot,orange,cream and gold.A few colors such as the cream have different colors in the center such as a deep red. Colors to please everyone! Nasturiums can be eaten and have a peppery flavor. They add interest to salads and look lovely in their many colors on tiny open-faced sandwiches. This is nice with tinted cream cheese for parties! No matter which type you choose bushy,upright trailing,large leaves, small leaves,varigated or fragrant I think you will be pleased with the results. Happy gardening!