Jim Hillibish’s weekly gardening column.
Nasturtiums look like water-lily pads without the water. This is just the beginning of a long list of their oddities. I’ve grown them for decades, and they still amaze me. This is the time of year when gardeners start lists of plants they want to try next season. Nasturtiums definitely belong on your list. No others offer their benefits. So here we go -- 15 reasons why these guys are must-haves in every landscape: 1. COOL HISTORY: They are among the first cultivated annuals, discovered in the jungles of Peru in the 1500s. 2. PLANT AND FORGET: They require zero maintenance after seeding except for picking their bright flowers. 3. GROW EVERYWHERE: They love poor soil. High fertility, including fertilizer, cuts down on the flowering. They are perfect for new allotments with rocky, clay soil that grows nothing else. 4. ALWAYS INTERESTING: Their pad-like, circular leaves are like no other. Flowering starts in mid-summer, with waves of brilliant blooms. 5. INSECTS BEWARE: Nasturtiums repel many of the bad guys including aphids, whiteflies, squash bugs, cucumber beetles and others. Planting them around your vegetables is a natural way to limit damage. 6. YARD AND PATIO: They love containers, making them perfect for decks and patios. You don’t need potting soil -- just dig up some dirt out back. 7. THEY GO TO DINNER: Their leaves and flowers are edible and considered delicacies. They offer a peppery flavor in salads and as a garnish. Chop them and use as an herb in many dishes. 8. CASH CROP: Their flowers cost $6 for a small package in gourmet groceries. 9. EAT THE SEEDS: During World War II, their dried seeds were ground and used as a pepper substitute. They also may be pickled in vinegar and used as capers in a variety of recipes. 10. BUY ONCE, ENJOY FOR YEARS: They self-seed every fall, requiring no effort or expense for a nice bed the next season. 11. BAD WEATHER FRIENDS: They are heat and drought resistant, rarely requiring watering. They tolerate cold snaps. 12. WEED FIGHTERS: Their dense growth crowds out all manner of weeds, eliminating that chore. 13. LONG SEASON: They survive mild frosts long after other annuals have expired. Mine often survive into December. 14. EVER BLOOMING: Once the flowers start in mid-summer, they keep producing until the deep freeze of winter. The seeds are produced on small stalks, not from the flowers. Collect them when dry and still enjoy the blooming. 15. PROLIFIC: They are perfect for filling large spaces. Left alone, your bed will nearly double each year. Have I convinced you? There’s one more thing. Nasturtiums always look happy. Their crazy leaves border on the comical. You never need to worry about them. They live to grow and please you. Send gardening questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.