Organic Cultivation of Nasturtiums: A Comprehensive Guide

Nasturtiums, with their vibrant blooms and edible parts, make an excellent addition to any organic garden. These versatile plants are not only easy to grow but also beneficial for companion planting, attracting beneficial insects, and repelling pests. Here’s how to plant and nurture nasturtiums organically.

Choosing Your Nasturtiums

Varieties: Nasturtiums come in trailing, climbing, and bush types. Choose varieties that best suit your garden space and aesthetic preferences. From bright yellows and oranges to deep reds, the colors of nasturtiums can complement any garden palette.

Preparing the Site

Location: Nasturtiums thrive in full sun to partial shade. Select a site that receives at least 4-6 hours of sunlight daily.

Soil: These plants prefer poor to moderate soil conditions, as rich soil may promote more foliage than flowers. However, ensuring good drainage is crucial. Work some aged compost into the soil to improve drainage and provide a light nutrient base.

Sowing Seeds

Timing: Direct sow nasturtium seeds in the garden after the last frost when the soil has warmed up. In cooler climates, you can start seeds indoors about 4-6 weeks before the last frost date.

Planting: Plant seeds about half an inch deep and space them about 10-12 inches apart. Water gently. Seeds usually germinate in 7-10 days but can be slower in cooler soils.

Organic Care

Watering: Nasturtiums are drought-tolerant once established but perform best with regular watering, especially in dry conditions. Aim for moist, not waterlogged, soil.

Mulching: Apply a thin layer of organic mulch to conserve moisture, suppress weeds, and keep the roots cool.

Feeding: Avoid high-nitrogen fertilizers, as they will encourage leafy growth over blooms. An occasional watering with compost tea or a diluted organic liquid fertilizer is sufficient.

Pest and Disease Management

Nasturtiums are remarkably pest-resistant but can occasionally attract aphids. They are often used as a trap crop, luring aphids away from more vulnerable plants. If aphids become a problem:

  • Rinse them off with a gentle spray of water.
  • Introduce beneficial insects, such as ladybugs, which feed on aphids.
  • Apply neem oil as an organic insecticide if the problem persists.

Companion Planting

Nasturtiums are excellent companion plants. They repel a range of pests, including cucumber beetles and squash bugs, making them beneficial neighbors for cucumbers, squash, and tomatoes. Their ability to attract beneficial pollinators also supports the overall health of the garden.


Leaves, flowers, and seeds of nasturtiums are all edible. Harvest leaves and flowers throughout the season to add a peppery flavor to salads, sandwiches, and dishes. Seeds can be pickled to create “poor man’s capers.”


Nasturtiums are annuals in most climates but will self-seed prolifically. Allow some flowers to go to seed and drop, and they’ll likely sprout up again the following year. In warmer climates (zones 9-11), nasturtiums can sometimes survive as perennials.

Enjoying Your Nasturtiums

Whether you’re admiring their cheerful blooms, enjoying their spicy leaves in a salad, or utilizing them in companion planting, nasturtiums are a delightful addition to any organic garden. With minimal care, these hardy plants can provide beauty, flavor, and ecological benefits throughout the growing season.

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