By E. VinjeTweet
Marigolds (Tagates erecta) are a hardy annual plant ranging in color from pale yellow to deep orange and rust. There are many varieties of this popular garden favorite from miniature to giant. Growing marigolds in and around vegetable gardens can also help prevent insect damage.
Marigolds like full sun and a rich, well-drained soil. They are easy to grow, however, and will tolerate average to slightly poor soils. Generous amounts of compost and organic matter will improve the health of your marigolds tremendously. Keep the soil moist, but not wet.
How to Plant:
Sow marigold seed directly in the ground and cover with about 1/4 inch of soil. Water thoroughly. Thin to 8-18 inches apart after they have sprouted. Marigolds can also be started early indoors for transplanting outdoors about six to eight weeks before the last frost date.
Once established and healthy, marigolds will continue growing easily even if left unattended. Water to keep the soil moist but not wet.
Provide nutrients monthly with a flowering fertilizer once they have begun blooming. Pinch off the spent blooms to extend the flowering season. Mulch, if desired, to prevent weeds and improve aesthetics. They will not survive a hard frost or freeze.
Insects and Disease:
Insects do not like marigolds, and they can be used around cabbage and broccoli to help deter and repel cabbage moths. Slugs do enjoy marigolds, however, and can decimate the plants overnight. Watch carefully for them and treat as soon as damage is visible.
Seed Saving Instructions:
Marigolds will produce lots of seed in a similar fashion to a zinnia or calendula. When the blooms dry out, cut them off and hang upside down in bunches. The seeds are contained in the heads and, once dry and crisp, can be lightly hand-crushed and winnowed from the seed chaff.