Brighten up your garden with marigolds

It’s time to start some garden worries. Until recently, I was more a market gardener than a florist, but in recent years I have become more interested in growing flowers. I remember seeing marigolds planted in my grandmother’s and aunt’s gardens. Although my dad always said “if you can’t eat it, why plant it”, I find room for marigolds, along with other flowers, in rows among other plants to help attract plants. pollinators. With the bee population dwindling, I think they need all the help we can give them.

Marigolds have a reputation for making great companion plants throughout the garden. The pungent smell of marigold is believed to repel garden animals and insects. While they do their guard work above, they also work underground. Marigolds produce a substance called alpha-terthienyl, which can help reduce root-knot nematodes (microscopic worms that feed on the plant’s root system) and other disease-promoting organisms. In India, marigolds have been used for this purpose for hundreds of years.

Marigolds range in size from 6 inches to 6 feet tall with flower color ranging from pale yellow to orange, gold and brown. Be sure to read the seed packet to get the type of plant you want.

Marigolds are easy to grow from seed which will germinate in a few days in warm soil, or you can start the seeds indoors and transplant them outdoors after danger of frost if you want flowers that bloom more. early. Local garden centers have a variety of worries for those who would like to go this route.

Whether you are transplanting or sowing directly in the garden, space tall marigold varieties 2-3 feet apart and shorter varieties 1 foot apart. Dwarf marigolds make excellent plants in containers and window boxes.

Marigolds require little care. The flowers are drought tolerant but may need water in hot weather if they are not blooming. “Deadheading” or pinching off spent flowers will encourage and prolong flowering. Some taller varieties, such as African marigolds, often require staking, especially during storms.

Although marigolds are hardy, some common pests to watch out for include spitting bugs and spider mites.

Here’s something to note; marigold flower petals are edible. Bright marigold flower petals are said to add color and spicy flavor to salads and other summer dishes. Flower petals can be added to rice to give it a yellow/orange color. A variety called “Mexican Mint” or “Texas Estragon” can replace French tarragon in cooking. This species is used in Latin America for tea as well as for seasoning.

I’ll admit I haven’t “knowingly” eaten any part of a marigold plant, but the bright yellow petals in a bowl of mixed greens sound intriguing.

Peter Sutter is a lifelong gardening enthusiast and a participant in MU Extension’s Callaway County Master Gardener program. Gardening questions can be sent to [email protected]

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