Flora of the Week--Tagetes Patula

The French Marigold (or Spanish Brocade Marigold) really brightened our gardens this year. Actually, it's still at it. This photograph was taken Sunday and you can see that there are still plenty of buds in evidence. It should continue blooming through fall and then it will be done, having provided a banquet for pollinators for literally months.

All marigolds, French and otherwise, are annuals. (Here are some samples from

Seeds of Change

.) They are

extremely

easy to grow from seed--don't bother improving your soil just for these guys! They have a well-deserved reputation among gardeners as an essential ingredient of successful gardens. You can find varieties that grow only 3 inches tall, or you can opt for something oh, three to five

feet

tall. You choose.

Why grow marigolds? After all, they aren't natives of the US. They are actually native to Mexico. First, they are deer resistant. This is primarily because of their strong smell. I've never really minded the smell of marigolds--actually kind of like it--but then I haven't been trying to eat them, either. But this is not why most gardeners plant them. Profusion of blooms? They certainly have that--and if you are trying to make pollinators happy, then this is a great way to put in a nectar plant that will bloom for a long time while other things come and go. But no, that's not their biggest claim to fame, either.

Marigolds are popular for the benefits they bring to the

vegetable gardener

.

Companion planting

with marigolds will bring you a couple of significant benefits. First is their attraction to pollinators. If you have marigolds planted in amongst your vegetables, they will attract pollinators to your grocery garden and improve the production of crops because more of your vegetable blooms will get pollinated.

However, the big reason gardeners plant marigolds is because of the potential for suppressing nematodes (

root knot and root lesion varieties

) in the soil. They don't work everywhere, or for every type of nematode. That being said, if it helps and it's a delight to look at besides, why not plant it? Marigolds are most affective for nematode suppression if they are planted in masses the previous year. Interplanting marigolds will provide some suppression, but not as much as the preemptive strike of pre-planning. Where our biggest groups of marigolds are planted this year will be where we plant tomatoes next year. But every year we will plant marigolds to boost pollination and to improve the soil for a new tomato plot.

The link in the previous paragraph is a good read for those who are serious about their vegetables. A chart is provided with crops effected by root knot or root lesion nematodes, with excellent information about determining from above ground or below if you are suffering from this common problem. Essentially, nematodes damage roots in such a way that the plant has a reduced capacity for absorbing the nutrients it needs to succeed. Bad juju. Bring on the marigolds!

Fauna of the Week--Sharp-Shinned Hawk

Fauna of the Week--Sharp-Shinned Hawk

Why Certifying Your Backyard Habitat is a Good Idea

Why Certifying Your Backyard Habitat is a Good Idea