Thursday, October 17, 2013

Companion Planting With the Marigold

Marigolds are a versatile and lovely addition to most growing areas. They come in an array of color, height, and bloom size ensuring a marigold to suit every preference and growing space. Marigolds are believed to be one of the earliest cultivated flowers. Ancient Greeks used marigolds for their strong coloring ability to create makeup, and dye for both food and clothing. They are edible and have been used in cooking for centuries. In addition, marigolds have been and in fact still are used for many medicinal purposes. The marigold is known to have strong antiseptic properties and to be both antibacterial and anti-inflammatory. Marigolds have been used to treat cuts, scrapes, measles, stomaches, toothaches, urinary problems, and diaper rash. These are just a few of the many benefits of fully grown marigolds, but marigolds actually have benefits from the time they begin to root.
The benefits of marigolds when growing make them an exceptional choice for companion planting. This is a system of polyculture that has been used for thousands of years, throughout the world. Companion planting allows the benefits of a growing plant to be utilized by a plant and all of its neighbors. The benefits of a plant can be exceptionally varied. Some plants have evolved built in protection against pest. Other plants can fix their own nitrogen into the soil. Each variety of plant has its own benefits and drawbacks that are carefully considered when adding them to a companion planting system. By placing marigolds near the plants that will benefit the most, the entire garden becomes more productive.

The roots of marigold plants exude a substance that effectively kills and prevents soil nematode populations. When planted densely they can offer years of nematode protection. Nematodes are often difficult to eradicate, and in modern times have been treated with strong chemical additives. The substance from the roots of marigolds is highly effective at preventing nematode populations, but is a far safer alternative to chemical treatments. By planning ahead to prevent nematode populations, the plants most affected can be saved from harm, and allowed to use all their resources for growing.
The marigold also offers a fairly inclusive habitat for aphidophagus hoverflies. These hoverflies feed on aphids throughout the life cycle of both species. By providing them with a suitable habitat for all stages of life, the hoverflies are able to focus solely on feeding and reproduction. Aphids are estimated to cause millions of dollars in crop damage annually. Preventing them from overtaking crops is a constant and often expensive battle for some farmers. Planting marigolds near heavily affected crops allows the hoverfly population to keep aphids in check naturally without the use of insecticides.
Marigolds are also known to repel other types of garden pests. For example whiteflies are known to avoid marigolds. They do not tolerate the smell of them and do not feed on plants in their vicinity. Whiteflies are a tomato pest, so when marigolds are planted in the vicinity, whiteflies will avoid both. Mexican marigolds are considered the strongest at repelling pests. Their smell has even been known to repel rabbits.
When placed correctly marigolds can offer many benefits to the plants around them. However caution is needed for some pairings. For example very tender herbs can be stunted by the strength of the marigolds chemical excretions. Also newer hybridized versions of the marigold may or may not retain the traits of their parents. These are therefore considered less effective as companion plants. This is not to say all hybrids would not make good companion plants, rather that they being newer have been less thoroughly tried. Also marigolds may attract spider mites. These will prey on both marigolds and surrounding plants.
Marigolds are an ideal companion for squashes, cucumbers, eggplants, and melons because they deter the beetles that feed on them. They pair well with tomatoes because they deter the tomato pest whitefly. The marigold can be used to help cover the smell of carrots and onions, thus preventing the flies that prey on them from locating them. Knowing the benefits of a plant allows the gardener to choose the best place for it. These are merely suggestions for where and what might benefit from marigolds. The possibilities are limited only to the grower's ability to recognize them. We hope you find many uses for your marigolds both after they are grown, and most especially while they are growing. Let us know how you utilize your marigolds as companion plants, or post any questions you have about companion planting or marigolds below. Subscribe below to receive email notification of new blog posts.

1 comment:

  1. I never realized that Marigolds could be so useful in the garden. Great article!