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Nasturtiums - More than just a pretty face!

There are two types of nasturtium but the one I can never get enough of in our garden is Tropaeolum majus (also known as Indian Cress) not the Officinal that grows in water!

They're tasty additions to salads, great space fillers, pest controllers, attract beneficial pollinators, make cheerful cut flowers and are also a great medicinal plant.  But there are many more uses ...

 

Here are some of the ways we can use nasturtiums in our gardens:



Comment by Elaine de Saxe on July 16, 2011 at 7:07am
  • And they make great mulch!

 

Comment by Scarlett Patrick on Tuesday

  • and they attract predatory wasps  which attack caterpillars
  • also apparently they deter pumpkin beetles and cabbage whites if grown next to brassicas
  • and act as a catch plant for aphids (preferred meal for them apparently)
  • a great companion plant.  
  • great living mulch.
  • unripe nasturtium seeds can be used as a caper substitute - pour freshly boiled vinegar over a tightly packed jar of the freshly picked seeds.
  • (am consulting the seed savers handbook - trying to confirm my memory about the predatory  wasps - which it doesn't mention)

 

Isabell Shipard's wonderful herb book 'How Can I Use Herbs in My Daily Life?' says that nasturtiums "secrete an essence into the soil, which is absorbed by other plants, helping them to resist attack by pests and disease. The smell of the leaves is also a pest deterrent." It's the hoverflies they attract that attack the aphids and the leaves can be infused in boiling water, cooled, strained and with a little liquid soap added, be used as s spray for aphids

 

According to the useful book 'Permaculture Plants' nasturtiums make great companion plants to apples, cabbages, cauliflowers, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kohrabi, turnips, radishers, cucumbers and zucchini

 

'Jackie French's Guide to Companion Planting' says:

"Yellow and orange-flowered nasturtiums are reputed to repel woolly aphids, aphids, mites and red spider mites from plants grown above them.  Nasturtium's mustard-scented foliage also repels pests. It doesn't matter what colour the flowers are."

"They are also a good ground cover, not exhausting the soil, nor demanding too much moisture, and they keep moisture in and weeds out.  The only drawback of nasturtiums is that they are annual in cold areas where frost kills them, so you are left with bare soil. An alternative is to plant the nasturtiums every year when you mulch the trees, along with some mustard seed perhaps. The mulch will  have broken down by the time the first frost arrives, and your other orchard species will take over the bare ground."

I am using the nasturtiums more and more now I've realised their many health benefits too.  Isabell Shipard recommended eating 3 fresh leaves 3 times a day a couple of months ago when I had a cough that just wouldn't disappear for over a month.  I only managed 3 leaves twice for one day and the cough went!  I was really impressed - I believe this could be due to the fast working antibiotic action in the plant.

 

Her herb book also says nasturtiums have apparently been found to be effective against some microorganisms that are resistant to common antibiotics, help prevent and relieve coughs, colds and flu and eating 3 seeds daily helps build up resistance to viruses, colds and measles. There are many more medicinal uses listed. So definitely more than just a pretty face from my perspective!

The nasturtium below is growing near my kaffir lime tree.

 

 

Propagating Nasturtiums

 

Nasturtiums are easily grown by seed and they self-seed so once you have them in your garden, they will supply you with all your needs for more and plenty to share around too. 

If you don't have enough seed to spread around your garden, you can also propagate them by taking cuttings or divide the roots.  The roots will strike if you put in water or a loose sandy potting mix in the shade.  Interestingly, they seem to flower better in poorer soils - they just tend to produce more leaves in rich soils.  Suits me because they are great space fillers for those sorts of areas in my garden.

A truly multi-functional plant for every garden and for our health!

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Comment by Tracy Arnold on July 26, 2011 at 13:13
ps.  I meant that the leaves are good for your sinuses, not sure about the flowers as they are milder.
Comment by Tracy Arnold on July 26, 2011 at 13:12
good for your sinuses too - apparently the 'pepperyness' of them clears things up.  I just love em in a salad 'cos they taste nice.    Kaley - I train mine to go up by twisting two stems around each other, in opposite direction.  Kind of like crossing them over as you wind them up.   I'll post a picture.
Comment by Anne Gibson on July 25, 2011 at 18:03

Mmm ... interesting question Kaley! I think the colour would look sensational and really have a wow factor! 

If it was me, and the fence has no horizontal rails to tie the stems up to as they run and as Elaine suggests they lean rather than climb, perhaps you could encourage them in the direction you want by providing a 'railing' to tie them onto.  I'd probably screw in a couple of small cup hooks about a metre apart (I think that's what they're called - the ones shaped like a C!) and thread a thin 1.2m bamboo stake along the fence with the ends just sitting outside the hooks.  This would give you a lightweight horizontal stake adjacent to the fence palings which would enable you to secure some light string or tie wire to as the nasturtiums grow up.  It wouldn't cramp their style and they'd cover it anyway.  You could keep adding additional stakes horizontally as needed.  The stakes only cost about 20c if you buy them in bulk so it's a cheap solution.

Comment by Elaine de Saxe on July 25, 2011 at 17:22
Plant them close to a fence and when there's nowhere else, they sort of heave themselves up. There's no tendrils and the stems don't twine but they'll reach for the sky when there's something to lean on.
Comment by Scarlett on July 24, 2011 at 15:17

Hi Anne

Please use the forum instead of blog posts wherever possible - explanation on home page :)

Cool nasturtium info :)

cheers SJP

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