I first met nasturtiums (Tropaeolum majus) growing wildly in an abandoned park. They had no water and no love but their lily-pad leaves blanketed the ground and their vibrant flowers popped in reds and yellows. There is a saying that goes, “be nasty to nasturtiums.”
Now, nasturtiums are my favorite edible flower. They are easy to grow and actually bloom better in poor soil. They resist drought, can grow in a container or up a trellis, they are showy and every part is edible. My favorite part is the peppery-tasting flower.
How to Grow Nasturtiums
Nasturtiums come in many different varieties. The biggest concern in choosing your varieties is size.
Spitfire is a quick growing variety that is great to grow up walls and chain link fences.
In warmer climates, you can plant nasturtiums any time of the year. In cooler climates plant them in the spring and summer.
Nasturtiums thrive with little care and can be tucked in a far corner of the garden or work well as a living mulch under fruit trees. Some gardeners claim they repel cucumber beetles and squash bugs and like to plant them near those crops. Just be aware of the mature size of your nasturtium plants, they may take over.
Planting and Watering
Nasturtiums prefer full sun unless you live in some of the hottest areas of the country where they appreciate some afternoon shade. Direct seeding works well for nasturtiums. Their seeds are large and a good seed to sow with children. Sow seeds outdoors after danger of frost and indoors 6-8 weeks before the last frost.
Nasturtiums are hardy but will need water during dry spells. If you are growing nasturtiums in a container they will need more water. Let the top inch of soil dry out before watering.
As soon as your plants are established you can begin picking the leaves to add to salads. Pick flowers whenever they bloom, this will encourage your plant to produce more blooms. I like snacking on the flowers right off the plant but they also make a great garnish on almost any dish.
Towards the end of the season, let your blooms turn to seed. The seeds will fall and resprout next year. You can also harvest the seeds and make nasturtium seed capers.
Check back next week where I will give you a recipe for a nasturtium margarita.