Marigolds are truly the superhero of the garden. They are beautiful flowers with a fresh and vibrant scent, attract beneficial insects, repel pests, and are even edible.
One easy way to grow marigolds in your garden is with square-foot gardening.
What Is a Square Foot Garden
A square-foot garden is a way to grow a kitchen garden that takes up relatively little space yet still experiences high yields.
This method is so easy to start and maintain. It is a perfect way for beginners to start growing their food.
A square-foot garden is a simple raised bed divided into sections. You will need a raised bed frame to start your square-foot garden.
This frame may be made out of wood or brick and placed anywhere. Yes, even on pavement.
The most common sizes for a square foot garden are either four by four feet or four by eight. The bed walls should also be a minimum of 6 inches tall.
If you’re making this bed over pavement, you may raise that height to 12 inches to give your roots more room to grow, as 6 inches isn’t enough for some plants.
Once your frame is built, you can fill it with a soilless mix.
While you could use regular soil, this method works better with a soilless mix as it helps keep down on weeding in an already very dense garden.
Now that you have a raised bed filled with either soil or soilless mix, you need to divide the bed into square-foot sections. How you do this very much depends on you.
Some gardeners use PVC pipes to create partitions, while others use simple garden twine.
A square-foot garden is designed to grow a wide variety of plants at one time in very close quarters. The crops will be very dense, with just a square foot of space for each plant.
This, in turn, leads to high yields for just a small garden plot.
These gardens are excellent for those who only have a little space to work with or prefer a more low-maintenance gardening method.
Traditional methods will have you maintaining paths and more intense weeding.
Also Read: Square Foot Gardening Kohlrabi [6 Tips to Grow]
Why Grow Marigolds
As mentioned in the introductions, there are plenty of reasons people want to grow marigolds in their gardens. We’ll go over a few of those reasons here.
Simply put, marigolds are beautiful flowers, usually with bright orange and red petals. They make a perfect little pop of color in any garden. Not only that, but they smell amazing.
Instead of that traditional floral scent, you might expect from flowers. Marigolds have a fresh, almost spicy scent. This makes them stand out among all the fresh greenery.
Marigolds can even be cut and used in flower arrangements in your home.
Marigolds are amazing for repelling garden pests. It’s little wonder they are highly recommended as a garden companion plant.
Marigolds have evolved to repel a few different types of harmful nematodes. One of their high functions is their ability to repel nematodes. They do this by releasing chemicals into the soil.
They can’t repel all nematodes, but the nematodes they do repel are usually the type that will be harmful to other plants.
Marigolds are also known for repelling cabbage moths and bean beetles, which can harm your crop.
Attract Beneficial Bugs
Not all insects are bad for your garden. There are plenty of insects that will help your garden thrive.
Bees are pollinators that will help to pollinate your crops, allowing them to produce. To start, they are great at attracting bees.
Marigolds, with their bright coloring and distinct scent, are great at attracting helpful pollinators.
Marigolds also attract what are known as predator insects.
These insects, like ladybugs, will feed on harmful insects in your garden. Lady bugs, for example, are famous for clearing your garden of aphids.
Lastly, marigolds will attract butterflies, which may not be beneficial per se, but they are always beautiful to look at.
Check out: Square Foot Gardening Herbs [Best Tips to Grow]
Marigold works as a great natural dye if you enjoy dyeing your clothes or adding a little color to your food.
For food, a few marigold petals are good for adding a lovely yellow tone to food, such as cakes or stews. For that reason, it’s sometimes called a poor man’s saffron.
If you’re going to use it to dye clothing, marigold works amazingly on natural fabrics like cotton, hemp, silk, and wool.
This flower creates a vibrant yellow color. The color is easily extracted, so you usually don’t need additives to make the color stick to the fabric, such as alum.
Feed the Soil
One final reason to grow marigolds in your garden is to help the soil.
There is some theory that if you chop up the marigolds at the end of the season and leave them on the soil, it will help repel harmful nematodes in the long term.
There is some debate on whether or not this is true, but in any case, there is nothing wrong with adding more organic material to the soil.
How To Plant Marigolds
The next few sections will cover how to start your garden’s marigold plants and how to care for them and grow them.
It is easiest to seed marigolds indoors. You can do this in a nursery tray, old cups, or even used yogurt containers. Whatever you use, remember to add drainage to your container.
Add some soil or soilless mix to the containers. Add your seeds, using one or two seeds per where you want a plant to go, as not all seeds in a packet will be viable.
Cover the seeds with about a half inch of soil and mist with water until damp.
Cover the seeds in plastic wrap or a plastic cover to make a tiny greenhouse for the best results. Mist the seeds at least once a day to keep the soil damp.
You should start to see seedlings sprouting within 7 to 14 days.
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Allow your new seedlings to grow until the first true leaves appear. The first leaves that grow from a plant when it sprouts are called the cotyledons.
These will be the first two tiny, rounded leaves that appear upon first spouting. The second pair of leaves will be longer and lobed.
When you see true leaves, the marigolds should be strong enough to be transplanted.
To ensure they are strong enough, you can “harden them off” by putting the seedlings outside for a few hours daily to get them used to the elements.
Wait until after the last frost of the season before you transplant your marigolds.
Make a small hole in your square foot garden, roughly the size of the container they are in. You can then gently move the marigolds and their soil into the hole.
Gently smooth out the soil around their base, and then water well. A good first watering will help the marigolds get established in their new home.
For square-foot gardening, it is recommended that you have a maximum of 4 marigold plants in a square-foot space.
If you are dealing with a small variety of marigolds, you may be able to get away with 6 per square foot.
Marigolds are fairly easy flowers to grow. Simply water them whenever the top inch of soil is dry, and weed as needed.
You will find with a square-foot garden, especially if you used a soilless mix, that you will not weed as extensively.
If you use marigold flowers for anything, you can expect them to bloom within eight weeks of sprouting.
At the end of the season, don’t forget to collect unused marigold heads to harvest the seeds for next year.
Marigolds will grow well in any area that has a dry warm summer. You will most likely find marigolds in hardiness zones from 2 to 11.
Marigolds can grow anywhere from the northern tip of Montana, down through the central states of Ohio, and down to the southern tip of California.
Have a look: Square-Foot Gardening Green Beans [How to Plant & Care]
Why Square Foot Gardening
In the next section, we’ll go over some pros and cons of square-foot gardening and why it may or may not be the right option for you.
Pros of Square Foot Gardening
Here are the pros of square-foot gardening.
Fast Set Up
Square foot gardening is quick to set up, even if you start from nothing. It is a simple raised bed frame with something to partition off square-foot parcels.
Starting at point zero, you can have a basic square-foot garden set up in just a few hours. This is a perfect option for beginner gardeners who don’t know where to start with their garden.
Square foot gardens are praised for their high yields, even using minimal space. The square-foot parcels are farmed so intensely that you get far more than expected for such a small space.
Square foot gardens are super small. They are perfect for those who have limited space to work with, considering the smallest standard size is just four by four feet.
Even with that tiny size, there are still 16 tiny plots for you to work with and grow up to 16 different varieties of vegetables, herbs, and, yes, even more marigolds.
Because the plants are so dense in a square foot garden, plus using a soilless mix, it can be difficult for weeds to get established.
The few weeds that do pop up can be easily hand-weeded.
Square foot gardens have no paths that need to be maintained and no sprawling gardens that need to be watered.
It’s just a small plot that you can easily water in a few minutes, and hand-weed away any small weeds.
Read: Square Foot Gardening Fertilizer [All about to know]
Cons of Square Foot Gardening
Here are the cons of square-foot gardening.
High Up-Front Cost
Because of the use of a raised bed and a soilless mix, the start-up costs can be quite high.
You can lower these costs by using good quality soil that you may already have on hand, using recycled wood to make the raised bed, or digging the square-foot garden into the ground.
Not Enough Depth
If you are placing the square foot garden on pavement, the standard 6 inches of depth will not be enough for most plants.
Additionally, you will need to raise the bed at least 12 inches in depth to account for the roots.
Six inches in depth only works if the plants can go into the ground beneath the raised bed.
Square foot gardening has many plants in a relatively small space. For this reason, these beds can get cramped at the height of the growing season.
This may not be the best option for crops that need lots of room, like pumpkins, corn, or squash.
You will still need to plant those types of crops in a traditional garden, or you can consider making larger plots for them.
As with all raised beds, a square-foot bed will dry out more quickly than a traditional garden. For this reason, you may need to water it more frequently.
To cut back on this, you could consider installing an irrigation system such as a drip line to keep your plants watered with no extra work.
To keep your garden well cared for, you will need to check for weeds and water every day. As the plots are so densely planted, there will not be enough room to use hand tools to weed.
Small weeds should be hand weeded as soon as you see them, rather than waiting.
Additionally, you may like some more gardening tutorials:
- Square Foot Gardening Rosemary [Growing Tips]
- Square Foot Gardening for Swiss Chard
- Square Foot Gardening Cantaloupe [Best Tips & Tricks]
- Square Foot Gardening Cauliflower
- How to Grow Turnips in a Square-Foot Garden
- Square Foot Gardening Squash [Most 7 Benefits]
- Square Foot Gardening Watering [5 Best Methods to Water]
A square-foot garden is a great way to grow various crops in a relatively small space.
Marigolds are a perfect addition to this as they are beautiful flowers and naturally keep pests away while attracting beneficial insects.
If that’s not enough reason to plant marigolds, you can eat them, use them for dye, or even cut flowers.
I’m Elsa, and I love gardening. I started GardeningElsa.com as a resource for other gardeners, and I offer expert advice on gardening topics such as plants, flowers, herbs, and vegetable gardening. On my website, I share my latest tips and tricks for creating beautiful gardens. When I’m not working on my website, you can find me in my own garden, tending to my plants and flowers. Read more about me.