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Zap in some colour with zinnias

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

If you’d seen me in the garden lately, chances are I’d have been tending to my summer veges. With the (mostly) warm November we’ve had, my vege and herb garden has rocketed away.

But now that my greens are sorted, I’m ready to add some other colours to my garden beds - and what better way to do this than by planting some cheerful zinnias.

Zinnias are bright, bold, and best of all, one of the easiest flowers to grow. In fact, so easy they’ve been grown successfully on the international space station; in 2016.

If you’re interested in the language of flowers, the zinnia flower represents endurance and lasting affection. And it’s easy to see why - with zinnias being one of the longest-blooming summer flowers around.

Zinnias come in nearly every colour imaginable and are ideal for beds, borders and pots. Early summer is the perfect time to plant them. If you plant zinnia seedlings now, you should start to see zaps of colour in around six weeks’ time.

You can grab your zinnia seedlings from Awapuni Nurseries online shop and have them delivered directly to your door. Right now, you can get varieties that will grow from 20cm to 1m high - including tall, green and Thumbelina. New this season at the nursery is zinnia candy stripe; beautiful flowers with unique freckles and streaks on each bloom.

Once you’ve chosen your seedlings, look for a place to plant. Zinnias like a really sunny spot, and will thrive in a rich humus soil; however, interestingly they will cope better than many other flowers in a poorer soil too. Next, dig small holes around 4cm deep and 15-30cm apart. Place the seedling in and firmly press down around its edges. Give a good initial watering and then only every few days, when needed.

Everything seems to grow pretty well at this time of the year, and weeds are no exception. Make your job easier by applying mulch around your zinnias, to help keep the weeds at bay. You can also give your flowers a feed of general garden fertiliser once a fortnight to encourage their growth.

Watch out for caterpillars and mealybugs on your zinnias; these can be treated with insect spray, or organically with a steady stream of targeted water and pinching fingers. Powdery mildew can also affect zinnias too. You can prevent this happening by watering the roots rather than leaves and giving the plants breathing space between each other.

After a month or so, pinch out the top, to encourage a bushier plant with more blooms. If you’re not sure what pinching is - it’s breaking off the top 2cm of the growing tip of a plant to encourage it to grow out wider, before it grows up. The same way you pinch off the very top of your basil (and other herbs) so it doesn’t go to seed.

A few weeks later you should start to see zaps of colour coming through. Picking the blooms will stimulate more to blossom. But leaving the flowers to dry on their stalks, could result in them self-seeding next season and create a cottage garden feel. If you want the cottage garden look this summer, plant your zinnias alongside cornflowers, foxgloves, sweet Williams and poppies.

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