Some of our sunny yellow marigolds in the garden...
Bright yellow blooms look up to the sky...they look as if they've captured some of the sun's golden rays within their frilly petals. Marigolds just make me happy when I look at them - for more reason than one! Not only are marigolds beautiful, but they are also beneficial to our gardens as a natural pest repellant - keeping both unwanted insects and rabbits at bay. This year was the first year we really had an issue with bunnies in the garden, but thankfully, my Mom had just read on the HGTV website about keeping your garden bunny-free by using marigolds. We decided to give this method a try in both of our vegetable gardens this year. For that reason and many more, this month I'm bringing back the In the Garden column here at Wasell Gardens by featuring some of my favorite flowers, marigolds!
Did you know....
Marigold flowers are used to make dye for both food and textiles.
Marigolds are completely edible and can be used in salads, as garnish or in tea. They have also been used in medicines because of their anti-inflammitory, anti-fungal, anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties.
Marigolds contain a vitamin called lutien which is related to beta carotine. Lutien is found naturally in the macula and retina of the human eye and acts as a light filter to prevent damage from sun exposure. For that reason, marigolds may be used to help prevent or treat macular degeneration due to age. Marigolds are also good for aiding in the prevention of type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer.
Marigolds are originally from Mexico and South America. In the 16th Century, marigolds were brought from Mexico to Europe by Spanish explorers. This sunny plant has been cultivated ever since!
Marigolds are very easy to grow - making them a favorite choice among gardeners for brilliant, easy going pops of color. They are not fussy about soil and water requirements, neither do they require a lot of fertilizer or plant food. Below are some short and easy to follow guidelines for growing marigolds.
Soil and Sunlight Requirements
Full sun and well draining soil makes optimum growing conditions for marigolds, though I've found they do just fine in partial shade and partially draining soil as well. Just make sure your marigolds aren't waterlogged and choose a site that gets as much sun as possible. If you're planting marigolds for pest repellant purposes, the fertile garden soil of your vegetable garden will be more than enough to get your marigolds growing.
Planting and Maintainance
Whether you start your marigolds from seed or buy already growing plants from your local nursery or garden store, you're sure to have lots of fun planting them! If you're starting from seed, you may either direct sow into your garden or start in small pots in a greenhouse or on the sill of a sunny window indoors. This year, I did a combination of both - directly sowing the marigolds into the ground and starting them in pots in my make-shift 'greenhouse' - our glass patio table covered in visqueen. Both ways work - its up to you and your weather conditions to decide which method you prefer. Marigolds can be grown in gardens, flowerbeds and used in container gardens. This versitile plant is one of the easiest and most enjoyable of all flowers to grow.
When planting marigold seeds, sow them at a 1/4 inch depth and cover lightly with garden soil. Keep the soil reasonably moist with gentle watering as needed. Do not let the soil completely dry out but be sure not to overwater. Your seeds should germinate within 5 - 7 days. As your marigolds grow, sunlight and water is all that is required. If you started your plants in small pots, transplant the marigolds to your garden or a larger container when they reach about 2-3 inches high. If your marigolds are a shorter variety, they may be ready to transplant sooner.
Feeding your marigolds with fertilizers such as Miracle Gro is optional - it may be beneficial in very small quantities but in my experience, it has not been necessary. Avoid over fertilizing as it can cause marigolds to grow more foliage than flowers.
One of the joys of growing marigolds is the ability to harvest the seeds from your mature plants. Last summer, I tried drying our own marigold seeds as an experiment. I was pleasantly surprised at the results this spring when almost all of my marigold plants came up! Another benefit to harvesting the flowerheads of the marigolds is that you are actually deadheading them in the process. The blooming season of marigolds can be prolonged with regular deadheading. This should be done regardless even if you don't plan to keep the seeds until next year. But then again, why not? If you'd like to try your hand at drying your own seeds, here's how I get it done in a few easy steps.
1. Watch for your marigold flowerheads to begin turning brown.
2. When a flowerhead begins to die off and is mostly dry and brown - grasp the flowerhead - petals only - and gently pull it away from the plant. At the end of your flowerhead, you should see a cluster of seeds.
3. Seperate these seeds from the petals and spread out on some paper to dry in the sun for a couple of weeks. Don't leave the seeds attached to the petals as the rotting petals may in turn rot the seeds.
4. When your seeds are completely dry, store them in paper envelopes in a dry place until next year!
One last thing to keep in mind when growing marigolds from seeds you harvested yourself is that your marigolds may look different than the parent plant from which the seeds were taken. This is because many marigolds are actually hybrids - making their seeds a different variety than the parent plant.
Digging Deeper: Species Profile
The genus Tagetes refers to the group of plants in the sunflower family including asters, sunflowers, marigolds, daisies, echinacea, dandelions and the like. There are many different varieties of marigolds with very different height and color characteristics, ranging in color from white and yellow to orange and red. Certain marigolds may be referred to as either French (Tagetes patula) or African Marigolds (Tagetes erecta) - though they originate from neither region. French marigolds were developed for cultivation in France many years ago - but all marigolds are native to South America.
Marigolds can be from 6 to 48 inches tall - and anywhere in between. Marigolds usually bloom in the summer, through the fall in most areas, though when grown in consistently optimum conditions - certain varieties may bloom year round as perennials. The most common types of marigolds, however, are annuals, errespective of the weather. Marigolds are hardy plants, though they do not tolerate frost well.
Marigolds have a strong distinctive aroma - which I would generally describe as spicy, peppery and earthy. It is the smell of the marigolds that help make them a good pest repellant.
Marigolds are so much fun and easy to grow. I hope that all of you will try your hand at growing these cheerful flowers and enjoying their benefits. Whether you have an apartment balcony or large expansive garden - marigolds are the perfect addition to your plantings for summer color. Thanks for joining me for this month's In the Garden! See you next time....
By, Jessi Wasell
© Genesis Web Design 2016