There is food in every corner at Old Trail Farm, but vegetables aren’t the only bounty that fills our garden this season.
Wild flowers and specially bred companions dot the farmscape catching eyes with their bright colors and gentle decadence, while subtly attracting pollinators and repelling pests. Some are tasty treats, others highly valued cut flowers. Wildflowers, bee feeders, medicinals, and simple fillers occupy any soil they can grab hold of. Flower harvests have become a routine of their own, and the flowers themselves are ceaselessly useful in salves, tinctures, jams, jellies, and bouquets. They can be used as natural pigment in paints, dyes, and cosmetics or distilled into oils which capture their essence.
As relatively light feeders, which are versatile both in fresh use as well as value added products, flowers make a lovely addition to any garden. There are dozens of flower varieties serving various purposes around the learning farm in the houses, market-garden beds, healing gardens, dotting small obscure patches, and tucked away along the forest periphery.
The outdoor classroom has grown into a drying space for bunches of yarrow, lavender, and calendula blossoms, and any receptacle that holds water is fair game for fresh flower storage. Dead-heading, or removing blossoms (preferably fresh), will keep most flower varieties blooming long into the season.
A few common sights include marigolds – a companion you’ve probably heard of in stories from grandparents or tales from old farmer hacks. I’ve heard they repel spiders among other things, but information varies widely. Nevertheless, they produce beautiful red, orange, and white ruffles around which lingers a distinctly ‘marigold’ smell.
Calendula are bountiful throughout the learning farm gardens, blooming in a wide variety of colors which naturally repel cucumber beetles. They make good companions for multiple plant families, with roots that work well alongside tomatoes and peppers, and of course they’ll attract pollinators to your plants’ vicinity. They are commonly used in salves and tinctures for medicinal purposes which make calendula a desirable companion in any garden.
Nasturtium are a distinctly unique variety with leaves that vaguely resemble lily pads and long vines along which vibrant and ornate blossoms yawn open like small dragons. They have a curious odor which is strongly reminiscent of their flavor — yes, their flavor. These flowers climb to the beat of their own drum, attempting to stand out from others in just about every way. Most people prepare them as a garnish for salads, but they are just as good plucked off for a quick treat. They make for a fun project if you’ve never grown them before, and are a particularly captivating experiment for kids.
Want to come out and see all these beautiful flowers for yourself? Join myself and the rest of the farm team for Bubbles & Bouquets at Old Trail Farm on August 21st from 12pm-3pm. You’ll get to build your own bouquet, sip on some bubbly and take in the beautiful farm scenery. I hope to see you there!
Dylan Leipold, Countryside New Farmer Academy Intern
Like many people who have grown up in the Cuyahoga Valley I have a deep respect and appreciation for nature, and can usually be found outside taking in the peaceful fresh air. I enjoy spending time volunteering with local 4-H and Jr. Fair programs, getting lost exploring deep into the woods, and tending to a small hobby farm raising poultry and rabbits.