How to Grow Marigolds & Why Should You Plant Them in Your GardenOn February 8, 2020 by Vlad4 min read
Marigolds are beautiful orange flowers grown all around the world, for thousands of years, for their medicinal use and gorgeous aesthetics. Also known as pot marigold, ruddles or by its official name, Calendula officinalis, this flower is extremely easy to grow, and once you know how to grow Marigolds, you’ll always want them in your garden.
Marigolds are native to Europe but can grow in most hardiness zones, with a little intervention on your side. They are perennial plants, so once they are established they can come back year after year if you live in a warmer climate. If you live in a colder climate, like us, you’ll have to treat Marigolds as annuals and plant them again each spring.
Marigolds are best grown in the sunniest parts of your garden, so south-facing garden beds are a great location for them, but you can also add them to more sun-drenched spots of a food forest. You can also grow Marigolds in pots (kinda obvious from their name), so you don’t necessarily need a garden to enjoy them.
How to plant Marigolds
Now that we went over what Marigolds are, let’s quickly go over how to plant these beautiful flowers. If this is the first time you add Marigolds to your garden, you’ll have to buy some seeds, but after growing your first batch, you’ll be able to harvest insane amounts of seeds from your established plants. To harvest the seeds, let some of the flowers mature completely and harvest their flower heads from the stem after the flowers start turning brown. Leave then to dry overwinter in a cool, dark and dry place and you’re all set.
Marigolds germinate so fast that there’s no need to start seedlings indoors, although that is an option. I prefer to direct sow marigolds in my garden, but I’ve had years when I bought potted seedlings from the garden store and transplanted them.
One thing to note is that ruddles are not frost resistant, so make sure you plant them after your last frost date. Frost will kill both the seeds and the seedlings, so it’s best to wait until later in spring. With a bit of moisture and nice warm soil, the seeds will sprout in just a few days, but it will take about two months for the first flowers to bloom.
Marigolds are not picky with the soil, they do prefer medium fertility and well-drained soil. If you’re establishing a new garden bed, dig up about 6 inches of soils and get rid of any stones that might hinder the roots system. We sow Marigolds randomly throughout the garden, between vegetables or next to orchard trees. Just make sure you pick a sunny spot.
The benefits of having marigolds in your garden
Marigolds, like most flowers, are great pollinator attractors. Their big, bright flowers and strong scent attract bees and other pollinators to your garden. This will help your vegetables and fruit trees to get visited by more pollinators and thus make sure your garden produces more.
Another factor that makes them great companion plants, is their ability to repel certain types of nematodes and other critters from the soil surrounding them. So, if you find yourself loosing crops of cucumbers to nasty nematodes, plant a bunch of marigolds nearby next year.
Marigolds are a great natural pesticide, due to a chemical produces in their stem and roots, that repels nasty bugs. Their leaves are also very bitter so snails, for example, won’t touch them, although other pests like rats are no phased by the bitter taste.
While they are amazing companion plants, marigolds were grown for their medical properties throughout history. Even today, there are loads of medical poultices and teas that are extracted from marigold. You can even make a homemade version, which we’ll tell you more about some other time.
Try planting marigolds this year
Get yourself a pack of marigold seeds and spread them around your garden this year. They are super inexpensive so you have nothing to lose, just give it a try. If nothing else you’ll be amazed by their beauty in late summer, and you might even pick a few for a flower bouquet.
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We (Vlad & Greti) are building a home on a homestead in a rural area of Romania in Western Europe and sharing our story as two passionate gardeners who ditched the city for a simpler, better life.