Collecting Pretty Marigold Seeds and Displaying For Fall

Marigolds are pretty amazing flowers. They are stare-at-the-sun bright, strong, bloom all summer, grow bigger than mums, deer won’t eat them, bugs avoid them and they help keep bugs away from food grown near them. I generally don’t plant flowers (that is my daughter’s area) but I am a big fan of marigolds.

My daughter may end up planting flowers for the farmer’s market, but marigolds belong to my youngest son. He plans to sell seeds and seedlings, but kids get busy and lose interest, so we will see. His 4H class project from 4th grade was one little seedling in a Styrofoam cup, and that has become the bumper crop of marigold seeds we have now. It was a busy summer when we popped the little seedling into the landscaping and went on visits to grandma, football camps,and vacation. By the time school started the marigold had flourished despite utter neglect. My son was proud of himself, but I completely missed the opportunity to capitalize on that.

Luckily, the amazing Marigold gave me a second chance when three small volunteer seedlings popped up the next Spring. They grew to massive proportions and spread over the sidewalk forcing us all to walk into the grass. That year was my first attempt to harvest seeds and I did it wrong. I cut the plants off at the ground after a rain and put them in a huge plastic tub to dry. The plants started to decay and some of the seeds began to mold…it was an ugly black mess. A close-up of the 2019 seeds shows they are viable, but certainly not center-piece worthy.

The summer of 2020 I threw some marigold seeds directly into the sticky red clay even though construction was still going on and they were constantly trampled. The amazing marigolds survived! When construction was finally over they really took off! I can’t be sure, but I think I have enough seeds here for more than an acre of marigolds….if I really want to keep the deer away!

It is easy to pull the seeds right out of the flower head, so that’s how I harvested them in 2020. I needed a break from digging, so I sat on the ground and harvested them on a 70 degree day. You could also cut them off at the ground and do this at a table. Instead of saving the whole head, skip that step and just pull them out so the drying process can speed up. Don’t use a plastic bag or container if you can avoid it even though a bag can be a headache in the wind. If you must use a plastic container transfer it to a paper bag (keep top open if you have a lot like we do here) as soon as you can and try to remember to shake it or run your hand through it often to help release moisture. You’ll notice that all of these seeds came out as black spikes.

Light brown seeds are like the little white seeds you see in a watermelon…they didn’t get a chance to fully develop like the big black watermelon seeds. They likely won’t germinate or if they germinate they will only grow a puny little plant. A few came out as light brown, so I tossed the light brown ones directly into the garden…if they are viable they will grow, but I don’t have to tie up any space for them.

Because of when I timed the seed harvest, there were still a few orange petals attached. It is so pretty and different it’s hard to keep your hands out of it. Smells like potpourri when you stir it and piles like magnetic/kinetic sand.

It will make a nice fall display for a few days to encourage my youngest in his ‘business plan’. Then they will go back into a brown paper bag to allow them to finish drying out. No top soil has been moved to the garden yet, so marigolds might be the only thing I am able to grow directly in the soil in 2021, and I’m ok with that.

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