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Seven Multipurpose must-haves

Published on January 19th 2021
A close up of a flower
It's a new year and with it comes the wonderful opportunity to try new things in the garden, including adding a few multipurpose plants to your sowing list.
What is a multipurpose plant? These are plants that can be grown for more than one output and fulfil a number of needs and functions at once. For instance, yarrow is a stunning flower that attracts beneficial predators and pollinators to your vegetable crops but also serves as a great fertilizer as its leaves are rich in potassium and phosphorus.
A close up of a flower
If you're growing a food garden or giving self-sustainable gardening a go this year, consider growing a few crops that have more than one great feature. Growing one or a few of the crops listed below can help to create a healthier ecosystem in your garden.
Here are six favourite food plants to add to your sowing list in 2021!

Comfrey | Symphytum officinale

There are numerous varieties of comfrey, but a favourite among many food gardeners is the Russian variety Symphytum x uplandicum. It produces masses of leaves that are jam-packed with potassium.
Potassium is a crucial element responsible for flower and fruit formation. Comfrey can also be used as an ingredient in compost tea or liquid fertilizer because of the high potash content. Comfrey can be added to the compost heap as an activator and the surplus foliage can be used as a mulch.
Find out how to grow Comfrey in the plant profile below.


Symphytum officinale

Broad bean | Vicia faba

Broad beans are hardy legumes that thrive in winter when most of the garden has gone into a period of dormancy. As part of the legume family, broad beans have rhizobium-bacteria on its root system that effectively fixates atmospheric nitrogen, thereby replenishing soil-nitrogen levels.
Plant this versatile crop under your fruit trees in autumn, harvest the beans at the end of winter, and watch your fruit trees thrive in spring due to the extra nitrogen in the soil. Only remove the above-ground stem after the growing season and leave the roots to remain in the ground.
Learn more about Broad beans in the plant profile below.

Borage | Borago officinalis

Borage is an essential addition to any garden. It is able to grow through tough winters and is a wonderful source of green material when other plants are taking strain.
The blue star-shaped flowers create an exquisite display and attract birds, bees and other pollinators to the garden. Borage also has an important place in both food and medicine. The hairy flowers are edible with a cucumber-like flavour and can be added to cordials, salads and desserts. Traditionally, the flowers were consumed as a tea to act on colds and flu. These plants are very prolific and readily seeds itself.
Dig into the plant profile below to learn more about Borage.

Artichoke | Cynara scolymus

A green plant
Artichoke is one of the first flowers to greet the spring season. The fat juicy buds are edible and can be steamed, cooked, roasted, pickled, fried, grilled and baked!
This much-loved plant is native to the Mediterranean and thrives in warmth and sun, and prefers richly composted moist, loamy soil. The enormous leaves can be used for composting and as a mulch.

Origanum | Origanum majorana

The entire oregano family is a mainstay in the garden. A special favourite is Sweet marjoram which grows through summer and winter. The dainty white flowers attract beneficial insects to the garden, especially predatory wasps that aid in pest control in the food garden.
Oregano is aromatic and has a sweetly spicy flavour that enhances fish, salads and dressings, stews and herb butters - a mainstay in the kitchen as well! This perennial is suitable for growing in containers and is at its best in sunny spots and well-drained soil.

Leaf Amaranth | Amaranthus

A close up of a flower
It's been said that Amaranth might just be the new kale. This broad-leaved annual plant is a very nutritious leaf vegetable and grain and has been used for centuries. The leaves are often enjoyed as a substitute for spinach and also used in salads, and seeds are considered a very important staple grain.
Amaranth is a very hardy plant and can cope a lot better with heat and dry conditions compared to other leafy greens. Amaranth loves rich soil, maintained moisture and a good supply of nutrients, especially nitrogen.
Learn how to grow Amaranth by digging into the plant profile below.

African Wormwood | Artemisia afra

A close up of a plant
If there is one plant on this entire list that you simply must grow in your garden, it's African Wormwood. No garden should go without it. A firm favourite in the indigenous medicinal garden, Artemesia afra is often used for treating treat coughs, colds, fever, headache, earache, and numerous other ailments.
This versatile plant also a wonderful companion plant with its strong scent, keeping mozzies, fleas and even canines at bay.
Artemesia also has a very interesting relationship with aphids. You'll often see Wormwood plants infested with aphids from top to bottom, however, this is not a bad thing as one might think! Other critters like wasps and ladybugs are very fond of aphids and are attracted to Artemesia plants where they can feast on aphids and lay their eggs. This means an increase in ladybug numbers, which means an increase in pest controllers for the rest of your garden.
A close up of a flower
Photo by @veggieman.
Dig into the profile below to learn how you can grow Artemisia afra in your own garden.

Have any favourite multipurpose plants? Share them with us in a post using the hashtag #MultipurposePlants!

A few posts by our fellow gardeners on these multifunctional favourites:
Broad bean
African Wormwood

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