Sunday, October 11, 2009

Zinnias; The Work Horse Annual of the Garden by Tallgrass Toni

Early October and my zinnia garden still had flowers. These annuals are the true work horses of any garden and provide the gardener with cut flowers from late July until they are killed by frost.

The zinnia is a member of the Asteracease family and is a native of Mexico. It was named for the German botanist, Johann Gottfried Zinn. Who knows what he was doing in Mexico at the time. It was called "mal de ojos" which means ugly to the eyes in Spanish because the bloom was very small. The bloom was later improved upon by the Burpee Company who now advertises seeds with giant blooms.

According to Kate Greenaway, zinnia means thoughts of absent friends.

Every year, after the last frost in the spring, I seed a large area in zinnias, using seeds from the prior year which I store in tins in my tool shed. Mice like to eat them so the seeds must be dried and stored in a covered container. I prepare the bed by lightly turning the soil. Then I use a hoe to make furrows in the soil. Finally, I sow the seeds in the furrows and cover them up with dirt. This year I had a large supply of alpaca manure so I threw a light manure covering over everything.

I keep the soil damp until the seeds sprout which happens within a week depending on the outdoor temperature. After the seedlings come up, I do not thin the plants. I like the bed very thick for weed control. I generally water the plants once a week. Zinnias are subject to powdery mildew if they are kept too wet.

Some folks say that friends don't give other friends annuals, but I think that the advantages of having zinnias outweigh the trouble they take in replanting them every year.