Tips and tricks for summer veggies

Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned veggie grower, you’ll find that garden beans, cucumber and baby marrows offer quick rewards, being fast-growing, prolific and virtually trouble free.

Along with tomatoes, lettuce, and spring onions, cucumber is a staple salad veggie, that is crisper and tastier when picked and eaten directly off the vine. Beans and baby marrows also double up as salad veggies (raw or steamed) as well as being great additions to stir fries, tomato-based sauces, oven-roasted veggie medleys and even spicy curries.

For a good yield, all three veggies need their flowers to be pollinated by bees, which gives gardeners an excellent excuse to plant pollen and nectar-rich flowers and herbs alongside them. The result? A garden full of flowers, buzzing with bees and lots of veggies to harvest.

Could anything be prettier? Plant vining cucumber against a trellis with climbing nasturtium. As the two twine upwards, the nasturtium flowers will attract bees to the cucumber, and provide top to bottom flowers. Nasturtium flowers and leaves are edible, so all can be used in the salad bowl.

Try these: Kirchhoffs ‘Ashley’ has trim, slightly tapered fruits with a deep green skin, while Kirchhoffs ‘Sweet Burpless’ is a thick skinned variety with medium green, long, cylindrical and smooth fruits on vigorous plants.

Kids play: As with cucumbers, grow climbing beans up a tepee or trellis with climbing nasturtiums to attract pollinators. Why not encourage the kids to make a tepee (where they can hide) and pick the beans, when they need to get into mum’s good books?

Try these: Kirchhoffs ‘Lazy Housewife’ is a runner bean named for its ease of growing and preparation. Its curved pods have a delicate flavour and it’s a very heavy bearer. Kirchhoffs ‘Nasturtium Climbing tall mix’ scrambles up trellis and along fences, with flower colours ranging from bright yellow to oranges and reds.

Natural soil fixers: green bush beans planted around the base of cucumbers improves the nitrogen content of the soil while single French marigolds planted in front of or next to the beans repel soil nematodes and attract pollinators.

Try these: Kirchhoffs ‘Contender’ is a bush bean that does well in cooler seasons but also tolerates heat extremely well. It is a heavy cropper with round-oval pods and a strong flavour. Kirchhoffs ‘Bonita Choice Mixed’ is a dwarf French marigold with a mix of yellow, red and bicoloured crested blooms.

Pampering baby marrows: Baby marrows have both male and female flowers that need cross pollinating by bees. Planting nasturtiums as a ground cover under or around squash will bring the bees and at the same time repel aphids and whiteflies that are active in summer.

Try this: Kirchhoffs baby marrow ‘Caserta’ produces an abundance of slightly club-shaped fruits with mottled striping in olive-green and darker green.

All-round best companions for bees:

  • Dill (Anethum graveolens) is an annual herb grown as a companion plant for cucumbers. The flowers attract pollinators such as bees and parasitic wasps. Planted next to cucumbers it improves the yield and flavour of mature cucumbers. Dill leaves are an edible garnish, with a subtle liquorice flavour.
  • Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis) is a low growing herb with lemon-scented and flavoured leaves that is grown with bush beans. Bees cluster round the nectar-filled tiny white flowers in summer. Add the leaves to salads, fruity cool drinks, and desserts.
  • Garlic chives (Allium Tuberosum) play a double role as pest repellents because of their aromatic foliage while their flowers attract bees and other pollinators. Garlic chives add a hint of garlic without the lingering effects of garlic.  They grow easily from seed and are cut and come again herbs.