GARDENING WITH DEBBI
AN often overlooked plant that is easy to grow and a guaranteed performer, known for its brightly coloured flowers, is the nasturtium.
Considered by some as old fashioned, this ornamental plant also has culinary and horticultural benefits.
Tropaeolum better known as nasturtiums originated in South and Central America with around 80 species of both annual and perennial flowering plants.
There are three commonly grown garden varieties in Australia; Tropaeolum
majus, Tropaeolum nanum and Tropaeolum peregrinum.
Nasturtiums are tough and flourish in hot, sunny conditions.
They flower best in full sun, but still grow well in part shade.
They tolerate a wide range of soil types, provided they have good drainage.
Nasturtiums thrive on neglect and don’t require much fertilising.
If too much nitrogen rich fertiliser or manure is applied, the plants will produce lots of green foliage and few flowers. Nasturtiums are easily grown from seed.
Sow the seed directly into the garden as seedlings don’t transplant very well.
In North East Victoria seeds can be sown from spring to early autumn.
The seeds will germinate in two weeks and begin flowering after eight weeks.
Nasturtiums flower in summer and continue through autumn.
To extend the flowering period, pick the flowers regularly.
Nasturtium flower colours include shades of orange, red and yellow with single, semi double and double flowers.
Nasturtiums are also edible, renowned for their strong peppery taste; the flowers, buds and leaves are all edible and high in vitamins A, C and D.
Nasturtiums are also beneficial companion plants.
They secrete a mustard oil, which many insects find attractive and are drawn to, luring pests away from more desirable plants.
Planted near cabbages, they attract the cabbage white moth and near cucumbers and squash plants, they deter cucumber beetles.
Nasturtiums also double as habitat for beneficial predatory insects like spiders and ground beetles.
Some to try include: Tropaeolum majus - “Jewel of Africa”, “Cherry Rose”, “Blue Pepe”, “Empress of India”, “Gleam Moon”, “Gleam Scarlet”, “Gleam Double hybrids mix”.
Tropaeolum nanum - “Jewel mix”, “Double Jewel Salmon”, “Peach Melba”, “Whirlybird Red”, “Whirlybird Mix”, and Tropaeolum peregrinum - “Canary Creeper”.