Nasturtium is a genus of seven plant species that comes from the cabbage family – and it has been singled out as being ideal options for those who are looking for something to populate hanging baskets with.
It was suggested that they could also be well suited to potting – and in either case they are a strong possibility for greenhouse growers to give some consideration.
Indeed, a study published by the Agricultural Research Service entitled 'Yield and quality of vegetable crops in conventional and organic production systems' made some suggestions of how to improve the growth of such plants in this kind of controlled garden space.
Hydrogen peroxide – which naturally occurs in animals and plants – was found to be able to protect plants from diseases or signal the plant concerning stress. Furthermore, it was singled out as a particularly effective soil amendment for the production of nasturtium in greenhouses.
Organic gardener and author of The Allotment Keeper's Handbook Jane Perrone identified the nasturtium 'Fruit Salad' as a particularly attractive iteration of the species. In an article for UK national newspaper the Guardian, she claimed that no garden is complete without nasturtiums. However, she did acknowledge that they are not always the easiest plants to maintain.
Indeed, the expert went so far as to suggest that their rambling nature means they can become quite frustrating in small spaces like balconies, as well as in containers. However, Ms Perrone indicated that the 'Fruit Salad' variety could be an exception.
She said it is "a compact cultivar (height and spread 30 cm x 60 cm) that is perfect for loading into hanging baskets or pots".
An estimated 12 years of careful breeding have gone into the creation of this particular hybrid. It was all started when a gardener sent UK supplier Thompson & Morgan a particularly unusual nasturtium that featured serrated petals. This plant blooms for much longer than any other flower of its kind, as it has been bred to be sterile.
"Expect the jolly, two-tone, edible blooms to continue to September, before the plants are killed off by the first frosts," Ms Perrone commented. "This is a sun-loving plant that will tolerate poor, parched soil – in fact, too many nutrients or visits from the watering can and you'll get all leaf and no flower. That said, remember to keep the soil moist so the plants can settle in after planting out (after the last frosts)."
The expert suggested pairing the plant with the likes of frilly red lettuces, chives or mints, in order to create a consistent theme throughout the green space.
In terms of drawbacks, Ms Perrone acknowledged that it is something of a pest magnet. While this can be an advantage if the gardener is trying to lure aphids and slugs away from a larger vegetable patch, it can still present some issues.
Nasturtium itself can also be eaten – and it offers a distinctive peppery flavor. This makes it an ideal addition to salads, pesto or pickles.