With their rich yellow, cream, lemon, gold, orange and reddish-brown flowers, marigolds are great plants for brightening up any garden. They are excellent massed in a bold display on their own, or they can be toned down with while and blue flowering annuals for a mixed display. Recently marigolds have become popular in the vegetable garden for use as companion plants, because not only does their pungent foliage deter insects, but their roots discourage soil-dwelling nematodes. Marigolds are extremely easy to grow, and can be cultivated almost all year round in warm regions of Australia. Here are some easy tips for growing stunning marigolds.

Marigolds can be raised from seed, or you can plant them as seedlings. The two main types are African, which are tall and produce large flowers and French, which develop into smaller plants with generally smaller flowers. Despite their names, both types originate from Mexico. The tall varieties can grow up to 75cm high and may need staking, while the compact types are ideal for the edges of beds and borders and containers. Both varieties require the same growing conditions.

The first point to bear in mind is that marigolds must be grown in full sun to flower well - they won't reach their full potential if they are grown in shade. Tall varieties need to be protected from strong winds to prevent them blowing over.

Marigolds prefer a loose, friable loam which has been enriched with organic matter and complete fertiliser. The texture and properties of Searles® Garden Soil Mix are ideal for these types of plants and planting your marigolds directly into this mix will save you the time and effort of digging over, improving and manuring your existing soil. Space tall varieties 40cm apart and dwarf types 20cm apart for a good display.

Another important tip for marigolds is to pinch out the first few flowers before they open. This will force each plant to produce more flowers and you'll end up with a far better display or colour. Whilst you are at it, remove any weeds from around your marigolds otherwise they will compete with the plants for food and water. Marigolds develop a relatively shallow root system so it is important to keep them well watered and mulched with Searles Mulch Plus® to prevent heat stress and evaporation.

Young marigold plants grow vigorously so you will need to fertilise regularly with Searles Flourish® Soluble Plant Food right up to the point of flowering. Once your plants start flowering, you won't need to fertilise as much. Marigolds have a long flowering season, which can be extended even further by regularly deadheading your plants. This will keep them looking neat and fresh and will stimulate the production of more flowers over many weeks to come.
Now here's your checklist for stunning marigolds:

• Plant them into Searles® Garden Soil Mix and make sure they're in full sun
• Keep young plants well watered, mulched and weed free
• Pinch out the first flowers before they open
• Fertilise with Searles Flourish® Soluble Plant Food until your plants are flowering.
Now if you do this you will have a brilliant display of marigolds in no more than six to eight weeks. It's as easy as that!

Happy Gardening with Searles from the Searle family.

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