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Calendulas taste as good as they look

The hard-working calendula attracts good bugs. (Photos: Debbie Arrington)

This edible flower does a lot in the veggie garden

Some flowers do double duty in the vegetable garden. Besides attracting beneficial insects, they’re edible, too.

Calendulas are a beautiful example. Known in Europe as “pot marigolds,” calendulas are at the peak of bloom in April and early May. (What we call marigolds – species of Tagetes – are distant cousins in the aster family.)
Calendulas are pretty in a vase or on a

Calendulas’ bright yellow or orange blooms make a cheerful and attractive border around beds of green leafy vegetables. They don’t just look good; they bring in the good guys to help protect your garden from pests.

Their nectar feeds such pollinators as bees and butterflies, but the daisylike flowers also attract lady beetles, lacewings, hoverflies and other insects that help control aphids, thrips and more destructive pests.

The colorful petals add a bright note to any salad. They taste similar to arugula, slightly spicy with a little earthiness. They also can be used as decoration atop cakes and desserts or as a garnish for savory dishes and soup. Dried, the petals may be added to tea blends.

Medicinally, calendula is credited with a wide range of benefits, mostly to promote healing of sores and wounds. The ancient Greeks and Romans used native calendulas as medicinal herbs.

Best of all: Calendulas are very easy to grow. Maybe too easy; they self-sow year after year. Once established, this annual will be back again and again.


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Dig In: Garden Checklist

For week of June 4:

Because of the comfortable weather, it’s not too late to set out tomato and pepper seedlings as well as squash and melon plants. They’ll appreciate this not-too-hot weather. Just remember to water.

* From seed, plant corn, pumpkins, radishes, melons, squash and sunflowers.

* Plant basil to go with your tomatoes.

* Transplant summer annuals such as petunias, marigolds and zinnias.

* It’s also a good time to transplant perennial flowers including astilbe, columbine, coneflowers, coreopsis, dahlias, rudbeckia, salvia and verbena.

* Let the grass grow longer. Set the mower blades high to reduce stress on your lawn during summer heat. To cut down on evaporation, water your lawn deeply during the wee hours of the morning, between 2 and 8 a.m.

* Tie up vines and stake tall plants such as gladiolus and lilies. That gives their heavy flowers some support.

* Dig and divide crowded bulbs after the tops have died down.

* Feed summer flowers with a slow-release fertilizer.

* Mulch, mulch, mulch! This “blanket” keeps moisture in the soil longer and helps your plants cope during hot weather.

* Thin grapes on the vine for bigger, better clusters later this summer.

* Cut back fruit-bearing canes on berries.

* Feed camellias, azaleas and other acid-loving plants.

* Trim off dead flowers from rose bushes to keep them blooming through the summer. Roses also benefit from deep watering and feeding now. A top dressing of aged compost will keep them happy. It feeds as well as keeps roots moist.

* Pinch back chrysanthemums for bushier plants with many more flowers in September.

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