Marigold for Pest Control

CECIL SOLLY’SCecil Solly - The Original Master Gardener
Marigold for Pest Control

Last summer I received a letter from a lady who was using the age-old system of planting marigolds between vegetable rows.  As some of you may remember, I demonstrated this for several years in the Thirties at the Snow White Ranchette.

Because there has been so much misunderstanding recently about pesticide use, I have often been thinking how much better it would be if we used some of the Foreign Aid Billions we are now sending people who don’t appreciate it, and use this money for safe pest control research in this country.

For instance, we know that coffee grounds will help keep away root maggots in radish, cabbage, turnip, and carrots.  In a recent release by Burpee, the largest seed mail order house in America, three is a report that “The Marigold has a salutary effect on the growth of plants around it”.

In the report it says that several years of test in England and Holland have proven that nematodes, other garden pests and some weeds have been drastically reduced or eliminated by growing marigolds close by.  Dr. Regina H. Westcott, an avid amateur gardener says, “The marigold plays a strategic part in improving the growth condition of other plants.  This plant (marigold) releases an excretion from its roots that kills the soil nematodes”.

Scientists of the Dutch Plant Protection Service suggested that marigolds be planted among roses, to control weeks in the rose garden in a city in the Netherlands.  The results of this experiment Dr. Westcott said, was “ striking”.

For many years, recommendation has been made here that marigold be planted along sweet pea rows.  Those who have tried it have been delighted with their fine blight fee sweet peas.  Low growing marigolds make a fine footnote to roses in borders or beds.  Noticeably fine among the flowers that are still brilliant and colorful in the fall are the marigolds.  There are various types, heights, colors and sizes of flowers. Among the newer and most colorful are:

Crackerjack (tall), Spungold (medium), Petite (dwarf).

The Tagetes seem to have been wrongly named completely, for not only was its resent title of marigold erroneous, but the two branches of its family were titled African and French. Botanists are not able to account for the geographical errors in names, as the plant is not a native of those parts of the globe.

Tagetes is a native plant of America, and is most often found in Mexico, Central America and the northern part of South America.  It was well known by the Aztecs and Mayans and often called by them the “Gold Flower”, which may account in part for the present day title of marigold.

Marigolds often have their first flowers on when set outdoors before Memorial Day and are generally still lovely long after Thanksgiving Day  – a six-month period of garden loveliness.  It is a good idea to clip off flowers as soon as their beauty is over and before they go to seed.  Adaptability is one of its great points.  It may be planted in beds or borders.  Groups may be set into the perennial garden to brighten it up after early summer flowers are waning.  Rock garden generally are drab and colorless during late summer, but if a few plants of various types of dwarf marigolds are spotted here and there, a brilliant effect is accomplished easily.  Being small and shallow-rooted plants, they do not take up much form the soil and may be grown quite close to most other plants, especially the deeper-rooted ones, without much detriment to either.

Marigold seeds will grow well and rapidly if the seed is sown now outdoors.  The only outdoor “musts” are a place in the sun where soil is warm and can be kept fairly moist by night watering, when necessary.  Seed should be soaked overnight before planting to give it a quick start.  Use warm water with a pinch of root hormone powder in it.

Last year a reader wrote this note, which suggests a way that many who are afraid pesticides on vegetable might like to try.

“ I planted dwarf marigolds in the beds with the carrots, radishes and all that type of vegetable – and – no bugs.  The flowers last all season and look very pretty, and they can be used for cut flowers all summer.  I sowed the flower seeds in one bed and then transplanted them to the vegetable garden when they were about two inches high.  I am going to try marigold with the potatoes this year and see if that will keep the bugs away form them as well.”

This system is nothing new, as I demonstrated it successfully several years at the Snow White Demonstration Farm in Alderwood Manor.  Unfortunately, many of us seem to have forgotten how well it worked. I urge everyone to plant some marigold seeds along with every row of vegetables to see if the system still works as well as it used to.


Cecil Solly

The Original Master Gardener

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2 Responses to Marigold for Pest Control

  1. Olga 2013-06-26 at 9:11 PM #

    Thank you, Cecil.
    I’ll try this in my small beginner garden 🙂


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