Marigolds and Other Garden Matters


This is what I’m thinking about as a layout for the garden, leaving three feet between rows, but doubling up the rows of stuff that don’t need as much room.

I’m a firm believer in the miraculous properties of marigolds and have purchased some French marigold seeds to rim the garden with.  My question now is, do I plan on putting marigolds in with the plants, too?

Anyway, I’m open for suggestions about the garden layout and interested to hear what you’re doing in yours.

39 thoughts on “Marigolds and Other Garden Matters

  1. Some questions: are you really going to want that may carrots? And what kind of trellising are you going to use for your peas and beans? Will you cage the tomatoes, or stake them, or what?

    Some comments: I think your hot peppers are too close to your sweet peppers. Also, peppers need notably less water than tomatoes, so think about what putting them close together will do you your watering needs. And all those cherry tomatoes — cherry tomatoes are really prolific, and unless you plan to be preserving them all summer you may have planned for more than you will want.

    And I like to put a couple of marigolds here and there inside the garden.

    This looks amazingly cool. I still don’t know whether I’ll have a second bed this year, so it’s hard for me to plan my layout.

  2. Your peas will poop out pretty early (at least mine always do). Are you planning to pull the pea vines and put in a short-season bean or more corn or what?

    This may sound like sort of an uncoventional idea (or really, a throwback to early American agriculture), but have you thought about planting your corn in multi-crop hills a couple of feet apart rather than rows? You’ll have to weed and water a lot less if you plant your corn together with the squash, as the broad leaves of the squash will block out the small weed growth and keep soil moisture high. Likewise, if you put the pole beans in that hill, they won’t need poles but can vine up the cornstalk (depending on the variety). Pole beans also help to put back in the nitrogen that the corn takes out.

    The more soil you break up, the more opportunistic weed seeds can root themselves and the more the soil dries out unless you go crazy on the mulching and watering. (I understand it’s been very dry there this winter, so you won’t have high soil moisture to start with…). Since you don’t like weeding, pursuing a method that allows you to disturb only the actual ground you want to use (hilling) might serve you better than a big Midwestern-style weed patch.

    It doesn’t diagram as neatly or look as tidy, I’ll admit. But it probably is more sustainable for where you are.

  3. Bridgett, do you know whether beans will vine up tomato stakes without choking the tomatoes? I actually have a back fence that my beans climb, so I’ve never tried the beans plus another crop method, but I’m curious.

  4. Oh my god! This thread is already so awesome I feel a little guilty about getting it for free.

    So, Bridgett, I think you are just about to answer an age-old question that I’ve had: Do farmers hate morning glories because they choke corn or because they tangle up farm equipment? If you can grown beans around corn, then it must just be the tangle-up factor. Hmm.

    So, I think this is a brilliant idea. Are there other things I can clump together like that?

    NM, good thought about the peppers. I do need to separate them. And it probably is too many carrots.

    I’m also feeling the pressure of the peas. My dad’s all convinced that we should get them in now, but clearly, there’s no ground tilled, so there’s nothing to put them in. Do I need to get them in now and, if so, should I try to get them in a flowerbed?

  5. You know the gray aliens that supposedly come to earth and probe your ass? If you popped the head off of one of those and stuck it in the ground and it started growing leaves, that’s what it is. It’s some kind of weird root thing that my dad loves that I am growing for him. He says they have a more common name but I can’t remember what it is, something like Bohemian turnip or something.

    I just looked it up on Wikipedia!

    German turnip.

    It’s apparently a type of cabbage and my dad loves the shit out of them. I have never eaten one, but we always had them in the garden growing up.

  6. You don’t want anything like cabbage or yellow squash or zucchini? [Nevermind, I see the zucchini now]

    There’s stuff online about “three sisters” gardening which is apparently a grouping together of corn, squash, and beans. Obviously I haven’t tried it myself, but my mom always mentions it whenever I mention growing vegetables.

  7. Oh, and I forgot, I have a lot of old tomato stakes left to us by the previous owners, so I can stake them if that’s better than caging them. Do y’all think I’d be better off with one cherry tomato plant of each variety?

  8. You know the gray aliens that supposedly come to earth and probe your ass? If you popped the head off of one of those and stuck it in the ground and it started growing leaves, that’s what it is.

    OMG, that is EXACTLY what they look like. Well, you win the prize for teaching me something new today.

    Question: where is the okra? You must have okra… it’s easy to grow and no garden is complete without it. Same goes for the squash.

  9. Right now I have the okra by the hot peppers, but I’ve never grown it before, so I’m not sure how tall it gets. As for squash, isn’t zucchini a squash? And pumpkins? I’m not completely squashless here, exactly, am I? But if you guys think I need to go out and get some squash, too, I’m listening.

  10. It gets about as tall as you and I – perhaps a couple of inches shorter.

    Zucchini and squash are in the same family, yes. Pumpkins too. You need the yellow squash though — there’s nothing quite as good as homegrown squash. (I just had steamed squash for lunch actually.)

    Back to the marigolds. I use them for two purposes: (1) to keep pests away and (2) my Granny always planted them, and they give me good memories of her, so I like to have them around.

    Oh, and I peeked at my flowerbeds yesterday and my hollyhocks are about to burst forth and go crazy once this weather warms up for good. I almost did a little dance in the yard over the sight of the fresh leaves.

  11. Yes, I didn’t mean to imply that pumpkins and zucchini aren’t squash. Consider the question about squash and the mention of three sisters gardening to be separate but related thoughts. :)

    I’ve always heard that marigolds help tomato plants, especially. Don’t know if it’s true.

  12. About staking vs. caging, I find caging fine for most cherry tomatoes I’ve ever grown, but staking much superior for larger varieties. (We’re talking indeterminate vines, of course.) I put out one stake per vine when I plant, and add more as wanted. I do top them off, but some varieties of fruit are so heavy that they like a second or even third stake to hold them up. Stakes have been more stable for me than cages, and (unlike cages) you can add them at any time.

    For peas, you probably ought to get them in by the end of the month, to get advantage of a full season (because Bridgett is right, they won’t last much into the summer). You can just dig up a row with a shovel (depending on how packed the soil is there), at one of the far edges of the garden space, and till the rest of the area later. But you have to have a trellis or something there for them to grow up.

  13. One thing that intimidates me about gardening is the whole soil amendment process. Anything beyond digging a hole and putting a plant in it kind of freaks me out, even though it shouldn’t.

  14. I also have a tomato question. Has anyone ever tried growing black tomatoes? I didn’t think they would do all that well around here (they were developed in Crimea, which has a rather different climate than middle TN), but last year I tasted some locally grown Japanese Blacks which were delicious. If anyone knows anything about what to do with them around here, I’d welcome the tips.

  15. Rachel, for more acid add coffee grounds and for more base add ashes. Or just get the fertilizer mix you want from Lowe’s and mix it in with the rest of the soil. There are even do-it-yourself soil testing kits to let you know which (if either) it needs. And, in general, if you have room for a little compost pile a small space produces a lot of compost, so that in a few months you can dig a hole, add a scoop of compost and then put the plant in. I am the least handy person you’ll meet and if I can do it anyone can.

  16. nm, prior to last year I’d never heard of black tomatoes, much less seen any, but my neighbor was given some by a guy that did some work on her house. I’ll sniff around and see what I can find out. You’re absolutely right, they are delicious.

  17. You might consider clumping your corn instead of doing it in one long row. We tried the long row in the past and had really bad yield. We found out that the problem is that the corns need each other to fertilize each other and make the corn appear, so there’s more of a chance that they will make the money shot, so to speak, if they’re in a big clump together instead of spread out in a single row. I’ve heard you could even plant them in a spiral, circular shape. That ruins your nice Jeffersonian rows here, of course. (You should read Michael Pollan in The Omnivore’s Dilemma on corn sex. It’s the most bizarre and cool thing I’ve ever heard of in the vegetable kingdom.)

    And, hey, what about lettuce? It’s so great for early in the season before it gets too hot, and you can just go out and pick leaves off of lots of different types of lettuce and make awesome mixed green salads. Mmmmm. I guess making a garden is like making an anthology. All the critics weigh in on what they wish you had included.

  18. Yeah, if I can have Cherokee Purples, Nebraska Weddings (yellow, with a sharp bright flavor), and a black tomato of some sort, I’ll have a colorful garden with a huge variety of tomato tastes. Plus my Sungolds (the best cherry tomato in the world, IMO) and some nice pink paste tomatoes. Mmmmmm, tomatoes. If I can’t get a second bed in this year I may forget about peppers altogether and have more tomatoes and okra instead.

  19. All right. I planted the peas along the trellis along the side of the shed. If they don’t come up, I’ll try again in the fall out in the garden.

  20. Alright, one thing at a time:

    1) Things to plant together and things to plant separately — Marigolds deter beetles. Plant them in and around anything that gets beetle-y — squash, pumpkins, the perimeter of corn plantings. Consider also that oregano is a good general pest controller, as is borage and thyme. Dill works great to promote growth in other plants until it’s mature and then it will stunt your tomatoes and peppers, so it’s not something that I’d plant anywhere near the nightshades. (Likewise, it seems to be bad for carrots.) Sage kills cucumbers, or at least greatly diminishes their output. Plant a couple of sets of mint in your pea vines and near your cabbages and kohlrabi — sounds crazy, but it makes them grow better (and in the case of cabbage, it’ll keep down the cabbage moths). Kohlrabi (any cabbage, really) will stunt tomatoes and vice versa. Plant them on opposite sides of the garden. Tomatoes and potatoes catch the same blights (both are nightshades), so they are best separated too.

    Classic symbiotic combos — beans, corn, squash — beans run up the cornstalk and send nitrogen down into the soil; corn shoots upwards for its light, giving the beans a place to vine; squash fans out to preserve soil moisture and discourage weeds (some evidence suggests that raccoons don’t like walking through the hairy squash leaves, but that won’t stop the birds from eating your corn). Sunflowers give the birds something else to eat and they look cool.

    Early crops — peas (that go up), with radishes and turnips in between — they will all poop out around the same time. Early lettuce might also work, since it has shallow roots and the radishes and turnips need more room underground. Spinach and strawberries are another good pair.

    I’ve had good luck with cukes and tomatoes together. I’ve also done pretty well with carrots (that go down) and tomatoes (that go up and out), but I can’t come up with a good botanical explanation for the alliance.

    2) Farmers and morning glories (and wild sweet potato, etc) — It’s not so much that they choke the corn stalk, which is woody and tough, and stop it from developing effectively. It will (I suppose) interfere with pollenation, but for modern corn farmers who usually don’t want free pollenation (see also detasselling, which is one of the crappiest jobs I’ve ever had), I can’t see this being a real downside. Instead, they hate them for a couple of of other commercial reasons. First, viney things make it hard to cultivate corn mechanically because the vines clog up the machinery. Maybe more importantly, broadleafs are nitrogen sponges — corn needs a ton of nitrogen to be cultivated in the same fields year after year and morning glories are competitors for that nitrogen (which is added through petroleum-based fertilizers). In other words, they eat expensive fertilizer, but they don’t pay in yield. Because the American ag industry is doing row cultivation, the so-called broadleafs have a field day (pun intended) broadcasting themselves in all that beautifully disrupted soil.

    2) Negatory on the beans/tomato plant combo. Bean vines grow faster than tomato plants and the tomato branches outwards with skinny leaves to seek sunshine; beans, with their broad leaves, would win that struggle and you’d choke out your tomatoes. The tomato also has a relatively weak central stalk until later in its development, so beans will ride them over. I also would not put a nightshade with a legume as they need different nutrients to thrive and are not the most complementary of pairings. Corn and beans actually produce what the other needs to grow best.

    3) Yes, corn in rows is not going to make as efficiently unless you plant a massive amount. The spiral shape is better for increasing yield in smaller plots because of the mechanics of pollenation (likewise, planting it on the downwind side of your garden seems to help, as does planting it all at the same time so that it all comes into tassel at once). So, pretend you are digging the pattern for a connect the dots labyrinth — don’t break up any soil but what you’re going to plant, regardless of your Jeffersonian urges. Remember who Jefferson had doing his weeding. Loosen the soil sufficiently so that you’ll get easy early root development (corn is a grass — it will network on its own, but the roots need to go deeper than you think because it’s a tall-growth plant) and then mound the soil (put some manure in — both corn and squash need more nitrogen to kick things off) so that it looks like little sloping hills or cones (controls water run-off — corn really needs good drainage). Plant the corn, maybe 4 or five kernels per planting hole. Leave a couple of feet in between each hill — honest, you’ll get better results if you don’t plant it wall to wall. Give the corn about two weeks of a headstart and then go back, mound about an inch or so of soil around the base of each cornstalk, but resist the temptation to thin. You want a massed planting of corn in each hill. Plant the beans and a couple of squash seeds on each side of the slope. Then let it run. It’s going to look very funny to you, but it will work. They call it agriCULTURE for a reason…anyhow, it’s way too cold to plant corn yet.

  21. nm, Last year I grew a Black Krim it did not produce any tomatoes, zero. I’ve always wanted to try Black from Tula, just because I love that name.

  22. Missus, what I have read is that the original black tomatoes were developed in the Crimea (Krim, in Russian), which despite its location has a very Mediterranean climate. After the Crimean War (1860s) soldiers brought it around other parts of Russia. Different varieties developed to meet local conditions (Tula, for instance, is about 100 miles south of Moscow, with a short, chilly growing season), and some of those varieties then got taken farther south and west into central Europe and east into East Asia. Lately, some American growers have started to develop black versions of local tomatoes like Brandywines. I would try one of those, or a German or Japanese variety, because they have been developed for climates more like what we have here. The ones I ate that were locally grown were a Japanese variety, and totally delicious. Not winey like the Cherokee purples, but more acid (in a balanced way) and, I don’t know, plumish-tasting rather than grapeish-tasting. And I can get transplants of those, so if I can get some growing tips from Beth’s neighbor’s workman, I’m gonna go for it.

  23. Bridgett, that’s what I suspected about beans and tomatoes. And I have no trouble growing beans along my fence, so I guess I’ll stick with that. Is there any plus in growing beans and squash together, without the corn? Because I’ve sort of decided to add squash to my mix this year, if I can get the space, and it would be no trouble to intersperse it with the beans.

  24. OK, that does it. I love Garden Talk on TCP.

    I’m in New England, so the dates are a bit off, but hearing y’all talk up your gardens makes me believe I can make it through the winter. I just bought a ridiculous amount of seeds to grow on my balcony this summer. The morning glories I grew last year LOVED it in my full sun, and this year I’m adding moonflowers, sunflowers, nasturtium, cosmos…

    And those are just the seeds I can remember off the top of my head. Last year I found gorgeous tuberous begonias, and I hope I can find the same species again this year, because dude, they blew me away.

    The only edibles I’m trying this year are strawberries. This is the year, damn it. I’ve meant to try them for something like a decade. Does anyone know if they do well in containers?

  25. Kathleen, I’m in the eastern NY part of western New England. I am feeling your pain.

    As for strawberries, I think it depends on the kind. They’re pretty easy to grow in containers (and there’s plenty of on-line advice on good varieties and cultivation methods). However, if you’ve got a balcony with good sun, think about doing hanging strawberry plants in growing bags, as it doesn’t harm them to vine downward. They just won’t be perennial.

    Beans and squash will do ok w/o the corn, although the sugars that the corn roots put down tend to spur the beans on a little more dramatically than otherwise.

  26. I should be clear that talking about gardening, thinking about gardening, and planning gardens is much more rewarding for me than actually gardening in my current location. I have about 8 square feet of sun for about three hours a day, all of which falls on a brick patio put in by the same idiot that planted the hugeass maple tree that now plunges the rest of my (small) backyard into Stygian gloom from April to November. So I’m totally into talking about gardening because I can’t really grow much here.

  27. Marigolds planted around tomatoes are, in fact, proven to deter pests. Plus it looks nice. Basil and tomatoes also do well together, the same as they do on the plate.

    I’ve tried peas (snow and sugar snap) the last few years, and the one thing I have found is that they require HUGE amounts of water. Also, critters of the small, fluffy, lop-eared variety (Bastards!) love those tender pea shoots, so I had virtually none to harvest . They also like to munch on lettuces and spinach, so you might want to think about putting in some sort of short fencing around tender greens. Nothing expensive, chickenwire would do the trick.

    Other than a trellis (I got a mesh one at a garden shop), another way to stake peas and beans is to make a teepee shape out of stakes.

    I also agree with whomever said that that is sure a shitload of cherry tomatoes. I usually plant about three, and can harvest at least 30-50 each day, way more than even our cherry-loving family can eat. I had one variety called ‘jelly-bean’ last year that I was REALLY looking forward to, but some critter chewed that stalk to the ground. I am still bitter about that. I would recommend planting a few more regular size tomatoes, and I recommend Roma (Italian plum), as they can beautifully. A lot of tomato plants do get extremely tall and top-heavy when the fruit is getting mature (like, taller than me), and even caged and triple-staked they often take to some serious leaning. Eh, by the end of the season you won’t even care.

    @ Kathleen: I LOVE tuberous begonias! I always have several planters full of them. Did you know that because they are, uh, tubers, that you can keep them from year to year? I KNOW! It took me a long time to figure that out too. You dig them up and dry them out at the end of the season and overwinter the tubers in peat moss in a coolish space. Just google it, you’ll find the exact way.

    Damn B, this is a great and ambitious start! Your garden will be lovely!

  28. Aunt B., you have rekindled my need for a garden. It leaves me so full of (well, I’m not sure what. Joy for you, happiness, longing) to think of puttering around with dirt and happy plants.

    @bridgett, Hanging strawberries! Who would’ve thought?!? I’m totally giving it a try.

    @Peggasus, You’d think it would have occurred to me, what with tuberous being in the name. My sister’s garage sounds like a great place to try it out next winter.

  29. It appears you’ve given 2 square feet to two pumpkin plants. I think this is wildly underestimating their normal spreading.

  30. B. — I think your Pa is quite right about getting the peas in now. I always plant vining peas very early. I’m in NC though. I even plant flowering sweet peas in fall. As everyone here has said, peas don’t like it warm once they’re up. Don’t worry if they don’t germinate right away. My experience has been– plant peas whenever, and they’ll come up when they’re damn well ready. Of course, I don’t know how this works in a climate where the ground freezes hard for long periods.

    I think Anonymous has some good advice. However, I wouldn’t plant mint anywhere where you’re not willing to have it forever.

  31. Woo hoo! I am excited about revising my garden based on all y’all’s suggestions.

    And now I feel I must confess to you that I ordered full grown echinacea because I could not wait to plant them in the fall for them to come up next year.

    I have lost my mind.

  32. However, I wouldn’t plant mint anywhere where you’re not willing to have it forever.

    Very true. But I’m going to try and transplant mine to an unsightly area in the yard, on the side of the house. I’ll keep y’all posted as to how that goes and how my nervous breakdown turns out.

  33. Spreading plants, like squash, zucchini, and all melons, will take up an area about 3′ across. Melons will take up even more.

    You might consider using tall stakes and wire or fencing strung between them for your pole beans. I know it’s non-traditional, but with that much space you can plant lots of beans.

    This plan will give you twelve shitloads of cherry tomatoes, which will grow in that location from now untill hell freezes over. That’s not necesarily bad. Last year we even made juice from the cherry tomatoes.

    I’ve not grown Krims but have Cherokees and I didn’t really care for them much. They weren’t very prolific. If you get tomato cages from the home center, you’ll probably also need a stake to help keep them upright. I prefer cages to stakes because you don’t have to go out every couple of days and tie the plants up.

    I had no luck growing squash and corn together. the corn shaded the squash out completely and sucked all the nutrients out of the ground.

    I doctor my ground with peat moss, manure and compost.

  34. Jim, I’m surprised you had trouble with purple Cherokees. Mine have been very prolific and tasty to die for (although yours might have been perfect-tasting and you just don’t care for that taste, I realize). Did you fertilize them at all after planting?

  35. What? No onions or garlic? I just can’t imagine a garden without onions.

    Do you have much luck with broccoli? I have a terrible time getting decent sized heads.

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