Ask the Hippie, Vol. 1, Issue 2

Yeah, I know, I was gonna do “Ask the Hippie” more often than this, but I got sidetracked. Sorry. Hippies are known for creativity and pretty dreams, not organizational skills.

Anyway, here is a much-belated answer to Teen’s request for information about growing marigolds.

Marigolds were the first flowers I grew when I was little. I think I was about 5 when Mom and I planted marigold seeds we’d harvested off my grandmother’s plants.

In any case, marigolds are generally tough plants that resist insects (some gardeners plant them alongside food crops to discourage pests, because the flowers release a scent that insects find distasteful) and thrive in a variety of conditions.

Like most annuals, they prefer full sun and loose, well-drained garden loam, although I once grew them with moderate success in a contaminated bed under a shade tree that allowed only dappled sunlight to filter down on them now and then. The area was right under an old oil-change rack at a historic service station that some members of the Illinois Route 66 Association were restoring. The ground where I planted the marigolds was so contaminated that I could smell the oil every time I plunged my spade into the dirt, and when I went out to weed the area a month or so later, no weeds were growing there, aside from a few tough blades of grass.

The marigolds didn’t exactly thrive in that environment, but they survived, bloomed, and set seed. They didn’t produce a lot of foliage, and they looked pretty stunted, but given the soil conditions and the lack of light, I thought they did remarkably well.

Marigolds need moisture, but like most plants, they don’t like wet feet, so don’t get too carried away. If you plant them in a container, make sure it has drainage holes in the bottom, and put about a one-inch layer of charcoal, vermiculite, perlite, aquarium gravel, or similar material in the bottom before you add the potting soil. If you plant outdoors, make sure they are not directly under the drip of the house, and make sure the soil drains well. If in doubt, dig a hole trowel-deep, put a handful or two of sand in the bottom, and add a handful or two of compost before replacing the soil. If the soil comes out of the hole in a big clump, smack it around and/or chop it up with your trowel to break it up and aerate it a bit before you put it back in the hole.

When you plant, you can either direct-seed the marigolds or start them indoors about six weeks before you plan to transplant them. You get earlier flowers if you start them indoors, but I’ve done them both ways. Plant them after the last frost (April 15 is generally considered safe here in Oklahoma), as they will not survive a heavy frost.

Other than that, you really don’t have to do much to them. Just keep them moist but not soggy, and they’ll generally take whatever else you can dish out. They are annuals, which means they’ll die off at the end of the season. Just harvest the seeds (which are wrapped up in a neat little husk that looks almost like a tiny brown paper bag — click here to see a picture) and you can replant next year. One or two flowers will usually produce enough seed to grow a whole garden of marigolds.

For more on marigolds, click here.

One thought on “Ask the Hippie, Vol. 1, Issue 2”

  1. Thanks Red. I really needed that. I bought some Marigold seeds and they have started sprouting already. That was like , a week ago.
    Thanks a lot.

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