Although I have a green thumb, I had never grown flowers from seed, but I wanted to try. Our yard wasn’t large enough to support a giant garden like the ones that I covet and grew up admiring and enjoying fresh food from. My great grandparents and my grandfather had beautiful gardens before they passed away, and now my aunt tends to one in her yard each year. I didn’t have the space that those types of gardens require, but I had just enough space along the wall of our walk out basement stairs to plant a garden that was 4 feet wide by 12 feet long.
My husband dug out all of the grass in the area, tilled and added in new soil, removed two baby snakes (which I am terrified of babies or not), leveled it all off and put a decorative stone border around the soon to be garden.
Then I got to work deciding what to plant and where to plant it. As the saying goes when you eat too much that “your eyes are bigger than your stomach”, well that’s what my first year garden was like. Plants everywhere, no path to get into the back row to pick the tomatoes, and the view of the soil was nonexistent which meant who knows what snake could be lurking under the giant squash leaves! Too many 5 foot tall tomato plants, giant squash and zucchini plants fighting for the light, cucumbers running all over the yard, so many jalapenos that I could’ve sold them at the farmers market, and a border of marigolds that was supposed to help to keep the bugs away but had me hurdling like an Olympian.
Lesson learned. The next year I decided to plant a much smaller garden and to leave myself rows for walking and it was much easier to maintain and enjoy. As spring approached and I started to prepare for the garden’s third year I was strolling through Lowe’s when I noticed seed packets near the front door. I stopped to check them out and I spotted packs and packs of Zinnias. I think Zinnia’s are nature’s rainbow, instantly drawing you in. That was the last year for growing vegetables, I was hooked and had to have all the Zinnias.
I bought 5 packs of seeds that day. I had no clue what I was doing but all the pretty colors and patterns (candy cane stripe) pulled me in and for less than $10.00 I figured it was worth a try. I bought the giant variety that grows from 3-4 feet tall and as soon as they came in I had cut flowers for the entire summer which I used to decorate my house and as gifts for friends.
Here’s what I’ve learned from my Zinnia growing experience:
That fall as my Zinnias started to die, I let the flowers dry on the tall stalks and cut off the dried flowers and put them into a plastic zippered bag to save for the next year’s crop. I was able to grow another beautiful garden without returning to the home improvement store to buy more seeds, and I was able to share my Zinnia seeds with my aunt and my friend. Now they both have the world’s most beautiful flowers in their yard every year.