I often get asked why I have so many marigolds in my vegetable garden. Aside from their brilliant color and delightful fragrance, these annuals provide some surprising advantages.
Marigolds naturally repel against harmful insects that feed on your plants, such as nematodes. At the same time, marigolds attract beneficial insects like ladybugs and ground beetles. Marigolds have the ability to repel insect pests because the favorable insects that they attract prey on the destructive, undesirable ones. This is one of the most natural (and age-old) ways to garden organically.
Combining certain plants in close proximity is known as companion planting. For example, tomatoes can be combined with various herbs such as basil and thyme. Tomato plants provide shade for herbs to grow and thrive. On the flip side, herbs (especially basil) actually enhance the flavor and health of tomatoes by sharing the same nutrients.
Developing a blueprint for your vegetable garden will help you bring a balanced ecosystem to your landscape. I encourage doing some research on which plants provide companion planting benefits. Be open to experimenting with different layouts that might work for your space.
I have found great success planting cilantro and different varieties of basil near tomato plants. My mom gave me the wise idea to plant marigolds around the perimeter of the garden to provide balanced protection. Planting them around the perimeter offers enough space for the companion plants to thrive together.
A petite variety of African marigolds (available at your local nursery) can provide consistent pest control as well as beautify your garden with a bright pop of color. Right now is a great time to start planting marigolds by seed. Follow the directions on the back of the seed package to see how much sun, water, and space your desired variety requires. For just a few dollars, you can have an attractive natural insect repellent that also provides plenty of room for your companion plants to flourish all summer long!