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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
plate.

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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Garden Checklist for week of July 7

Take care of garden chores early in the morning, concentrating on watering. We’re still in survival mode until this heat wave breaks.

* Keep your vegetable garden watered, mulched and weeded. Water before 8 a.m. to conserve moisture.

* Prevent sunburn; provide temporary shade for tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, melons, squash and other crops with “sensitive” skin.

* Hold off on feeding plants until temperatures cool back down to “normal” range. That means daytime highs in the low to mid 90s.

* Don’t let tomatoes wilt or dry out completely. Give tomatoes a deep watering two to three times a week. Harvest vegetables promptly to encourage plants to produce more.

* Squash especially tends to grow rapidly in hot weather. Keep an eye on zucchini.

* Some weeds thrive in hot weather. Whack them before they go to seed.

* Pinch back chrysanthemums for bushy plants and more flowers in September.

* Harvest tomatoes, squash, peppers and eggplant. Prompt picking will help keep plants producing.

* Remove spent flowers from roses, daylilies and other bloomers as they finish flowering.

* Pinch off blooms from basil so the plant will grow more leaves.

* Cut back lavender after flowering to promote a second bloom.

* One good thing about hot days: Most lawns stop growing when temperatures top 95 degrees. Keep mower blades set on high.

* Once the weather cools down a little, it’s not too late to add a splash of color. Plant petunias, snapdragons, zinnias and marigolds.

* After the heat wave, plant corn, pumpkins, radishes, winter squash and sunflowers. Make sure the seeds stay hydrated.

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