This week I’d like to share with you the magic and wonder of the flower, Calendula Officinalis.
For me Calendula Officinalis is a wonder plant – it is medicinal, edible, sacrificial, beneficial and a great companion plant, as well as a deliciously edible addition to any salad. What’s not to love! I think it’s an example of Mother Nature at her most generously creative.
What you need to know about Calendula and why I love it
Calendula grows most of the year round in New Zealand and self-seeds easily in most soils and conditions. If it starts looking a little scraggy, you can cut it almost all the way to the ground and it will grow again.
Top tip: Remember to always cut on an angle to enable the wound to heal and to prevent water sitting on the cut and causing the plant to rot.
You can either choose to leave it to go to seed; harvest the flowers at the appropriate time for making oil or cream; scatter the petals in a salad; or dead head the flowers as they die off. Calendula is not fussy about soil type and is pretty drought-tolerant too, as long as your get your plants established by December.
Calendula is of great benefit to all gardens.
Calendula as a sacrificial plant
In late spring and over summer, Calendula can attract numerous pests and trap them away from your garden. The petals, leaves, and centre of the flower are quite sticky, which cleverly traps pests like whitefly, blackfly and greenfly, keeping them away from your vegetable garden. Thanks Calendula!
They also attract green shield beetles, in turn also keeping these away from your tomatoes.
When using Calendula as a sacrificial plant make sure to plant at least 2 metres away from your producing garden to keep the pests a safe distant from your plants. The pests will therefore infest your Calendula and stay away from your precious produce.
Leave the Calendula plant alone whilst it performs its martyrdom; observation is the only action necessary. Eventually the plant will lose its life force and die. This is OK.
The pests will hang on to your Calendula for the rest of the season; some living and some dead – this too is OK.
Top tip: It is best to space your plantings out for maximum effect over the summer months. Plant every two weeks or every month. Remember that you are planting for this purpose – the plant could die and that is OK. It is nature’s way of taking care of itself.
Calendula as a companion and beneficial plant
Calendula is an amazing companion plant – it’s your garden’s best friend. Calendula attracts a wide variety of beneficial pollinating insects, such as butterflies and bees, and the pests that get trapped in the flowers attract ladybugs, lacewings and hoverflies.
I told you it was a magic plant!
Its roots are very beneficial for the soil, repelling soil nematodes and asparagus beetles, whilst opening up the soil with its vigorous root. Calendula is the plant that keeps giving, as it will produce new flowers over the whole season.
Top tip: Companion planted with carrots, chard, parsley, thyme, peas, cucumbers, asparagus and tomatoes will greatly increase the health and vigour of these plants. Healthy plants are not attractive to pests – they would rather go for the weaker ones.
Calendula as an edible flower
Calendula is a great addition to any salad, cake or muffin. Just pick a good-looking flower and pluck the petals off, then scatter them on top of your salad. They especially look stunning on the top of a beetroot salad!
Similarly in a cake or some muffins, scatter the flowers on top of the mix just before putting in the oven. It is also great as a decoration on top of a rice dish to add vibrancy and colour.
Calendula as a medicinal plant
In the next blog, I’ll be sharing more about the true potency of this incredible plant, including the benefits for medicinal use. Many of you know about my renowned Organic Calendula Cream that I produce once a year. This wonderful stuff always sells like hot cakes, so I want to give you an exclusive chance to get on my wait list ahead of the next batch…
More next week, but if you want to beat the crowds and get your hands on my Organic Calendula Cream first (your hands will love you for it!) then email me here, and I’ll add you to the wait list!
Get growing Calendula and show your garden a bit of Mother Nature’s magic.