Marigold is a beautiful flower and also a very simple plant to grow.
Putting it among vegetables can be doubly advantageous: the flower has the effect of attracting bees and other beneficial insects, the calendula plant has extraordinary medicinal properties.
Calendula officinalis has always been used in the field of natural medicine and cosmetics, but not only: its edible petals can be eaten in salads. Together with marigold and borage, it is one of the most popular flowers to be placed in the garden.
The flower of the marigold
The marigold plant belongs to the composite or Asteraceae family, it is characterized by an inflorescence with a lively color between yellow and orange depending on the variety.
The stem of the plant reaches 50 cm in height, it blooms from the end of spring to autumn. There are about thirty species of calendula, we remember the Calendula officinalis which is the most widespread in crops, also known as marigold or orange blossom and the calendula arvensis which we find spontaneously in the meadows.
We can grow it in our garden both for the flowers, beautiful and with many properties, and for enriching the environment with greater biodiversity, we have already told why biodiversity is important for organic cultivation.
Sow calendula officinalis
Sowing. This flower is usually sown in seedbeds in March, it must be borne in mind that the seeds germinate with temperatures of at least 15 degrees, in late spring the calendula can be transplanted into the garden. If we want to sow directly at home, we can do it starting from April. It is not difficult to germinate the Calendula officinalis, it is a plant able to propagate even by itself, re-sowing. For this reason, if it is placed in flower beds dedicated to it, we can leave it, probably in a natural way it will produce seeds that will keep the species present from one year to the next. Even the borders of the garden are a great place to spread this flower.
Plant sixth. This is not a small flower: the marigold plant reaches half a meter in height, we must take this into account when designing the garden. For this reason, when transplanting it is better to leave a fair distance, we calculate about 30 cm between one plant and another. Those who do not grow marigold to collect flowers but simply want to enrich the garden with biodiversity can instead disseminate the seedlings among other crops or broadcast them in the edges and uncultivated areas.
How calendula is grown
As I anticipated, it is a simple flower to grow, so much so that by broadcasting the seed it can also grow by itself. If the cultivation is aimed at obtaining a harvest, it is still worthwhile to have some precautions, which allow improving the production of flowers.
Climate. The marigold is the garden that loves being in the sun and is not afraid of the summer heat unless accompanied by drought.
Suitable soil. This composite plant is adaptable, prefers fairly loose soils, and is damaged by waterlogging.
Fertilization. Even if the marigold is not a particularly demanding flower from the point of view of nutrients, it benefits from the presence of organic substances in the soil, for this reason, a contribution of compost before sowing is welcome. During flowering, it can be fertilized so as not to make the plant lack elements. The recommendation is not to overdo it with nitrogen, which supports the development of the leaves at the expense of the flowers.
Irrigation. The plant must be watered regularly, even if it does not like large quantities of water, so it is better to water often and little.
Eliminate the faded flower heads. After flowering, the flower heads recline. If we want to stimulate the plant in the production of buds we can eliminate these flower heads that wither. This way there will always be more flowers. Since the flower produces the seed, we can throw the withered flower head into the garden borders, hoping that some seeds will be able to germinate, forming spontaneous calendula plants the following year.
Usefulness of the flower in the vegetable garden
Marigold is a very useful flower for the vegetable garden, from several points of view. It attracts pollinating insects such as bees and wasps, its root system removes nematode worms from the ground in a natural way. Due to these characteristics, it is a good neighbor for fruit vegetables (for example cucumber, pumpkin, and courgette).
In summary, here are the various positive characteristics of this flower.
- It attracts pollinating insects, such as bees and bumblebees, which are interested in the nectar of the flower and which are very important for garden plants to produce fruit.
- Drive out nematodes from the earth. The root exudate of the calendula is unwelcome to this soil parasite.
- It has edible petals. The flower petals can be eaten in salads or even make candied fruit.
- It has edible buds. Marigold buds, like those of dandelions, can be preserved in vinegar).
- It has officinal virtues. Calendula has remarkable anti-inflammatory properties, it is precious for cosmetic use and above all moisturizing, which is why it is used a lot in skin creams.
- What are great neighbors for marigold in breeding? Pumpkin, courgette, cucumber, tomato, pepper, eggplant, peas, beans, green beans.
The uses of calendula
Marigold, especially its flower, can be used in many ways. The two categories of use are medicinal and cosmetic use, which exploits the properties, and the culinary use, where the orange petals choreograph the dishes.
Calendula as a officinal
Medicinal uses. Calendula has ornamental properties but also important medicinal virtues: it is an anti-inflammatory, healing, and disinfectant. The flower has been used in natural medicine for centuries.
Cosmetic use. This plant is also used in cosmetics, as a moisturizer and astringent, using calendula flowers you can make excellent natural hand creams or soothe sunburn.
Calendula in the kitchen
Although marigold does not have the particular flavor of dandelion, it is an edible flower that still has several culinary uses.
The flowers are used by putting young leaves and fresh petals directly in salads or to garnish all kinds of dishes, alternatively by drying the petals you can make decoctions or infusions. The buds can be used in pickles, the effect is similar to the caper even if without the aromatic taste of the Mediterranean plant. The dried petals can also be made candied if we want to use calendula in desserts.
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