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Growing and Drying Calendula
If I’m honest, one of the reasons I grow calendula is that it is easy. The name - calendula officinalis - refers to the way that in temperate climates it will bloom every month of the year. It doesn’t quite do that here but there are flowers more months than not. The seeds are large and irregularly shaped - easy for children to handle - and can be grown out in a flower bed or in large pots. Sow in either September to overwinter or March/April. Once you have an established patch you will probably find that it self sows happily. I would love to know how you get on growing calendula and making things from it, such as this balm. Please tag me @snapdragon.life on Instagram or use the hashtag #snapdragonlife.
- Clear a patch of soil in your garden or pot and rake it level. Draw lines in the soil with a cane - about 15 cm apart. These can be straight or a spiral - the point is that you can see your calendula seedlings following the line and weed everything else out. As the plants grow you won’t see the lines at all.
- If it is dry weather then carefully water along the lines and allow them to drain.
- Sow 2 seeds every 5 cm along the lines. Smooth the soil gently back over the seeds and water.
- Thin out the plants as they grow so you end up with one healthy calendula seedling every 10cm
- Sow seeds, 2 to a small pot, and keep watering until you see the roots growing through the holes in the bottom. Then plant into a larger pot or out into the garden.
- Deadhead regularly and they will keep flowering all summer. Or pick flowers for the house, it has the same effect, the more you pick, the more flowers will grow.
My favourite varieties of calendula
A Touch of Red Buff - small apricot flowers with red backs to the petals.
Orange King - the classic strong orange marigold - massses of petals make it perfect when you want to make balms and oils.
Sherbet - another pale small flowered marigold that fits well into a more subtle garden.
Indian Prince - reddish orange petals and small flowers - this fits well with reds, purples and lime green in the classic bright and rich border.
How to dry calendula
- It is easy to dry calendula as you can keep the heads intact. You can also use a dehydrator if you have one.
- Choose a dry day so that there is no dew or rain on the petals.
- Cut the flowers off the stems - as close to the head of the flower as possible.
- Spread the flowers out on grids close together, but so they are not touching.
- Put the grid somewhere warm - an airing cupboard is ideal.
- Leave for 2-4 weeks until completely dry.
- You can either leave as whole flowers of pull the petals off.
- Store in a wide wide necked jar or use in recipes.