Friday, June 29, 2012

The Magic of Marigolds!

If you think Marigolds are just another pretty face in the flower bed, think again! These easy to grow bursts of color can be quite helpful as they lure beneficial insects to the garden, including pollinators like bees and butterflies. As if that’s not enough, they also discourage harmful insects from visiting your gardens and can keep bad nematodes away. 

There are two basic types of marigolds.  Both are easy to find in garden centers or as seed. French marigolds are the ones with pom-pom type heads that grow to about 18 inches tall and come in a variety of colors ranging from yellow to rust. Their roots give off a substance which kills nematodes – the bad ones that can destroy tomatoes and other crops.  Marigolds need to be planted densely to control nematodes.  Scented French marigolds also give off an unpleasant scent that repels whiteflies.

 African Marigolds, which really come from Mexico, grow much taller than the French variety.  Their scent is quite unappealing to many insects so they act as a natural repellant. They are said to repel bean beetles, deer and wild rabbits as well as the dreaded tomato hornworm. Due to their natural ability to repel insects and kill nematodes, marigolds make an ideal companion plant for tomatoes.

Marigolds do well in mass plantings and they need to be the scented variety in order to work.  One or two planted here and there won’t repel insects or kill nematodes. They’re perfect in borders and containers. They can tolerate poor soil and don’t need to be watered too often, but they do need plenty of sun. They do like a feeding once a month…amazingly, so do tomatoes. Caring for the marigolds will become part of the tomato routine.   Keep in mind, however, that marigolds should not be planted with cabbage or beans as they can act as an herbicide.  Slugs can be a problem with marigolds so be sure to stay on top of them.

Marigolds are a bright and bold addition to any garden. Add to that they repel the bad insects and attract the good ones and you have more than enough reason to plant them everywhere in your garden. If you’re still not convinced, though, think about the recipes that would be deliciously finished with a hint of spice from marigold petals.  Yes, they’re edible! Cut some to put in a vase of water and the rest go on your plate…truly a farm to table experience. Ahhh…the Magic of Marigolds!

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