Well, once the rains finally stopped in mid-June, we did indeed get some summer weather. The kind where you get really careful about opening up all the windows at night to let the cool in, and closing them early in the morning to keep it inside. The kind where zinnias and sunflowers and pepper plants actually look happy to be alive instead of grousing sourly and hunkering down with their shoulders hunched, all mangled and bitten by earwigs and slugs. It was not a very good gardening spring, though, unless you managed to sow spinach or lettuce during those few moents when the reain let up on one of 2 weekends.
My one early planting of summer flowers had that grupmpy look to them for the longest time. But now that it’s been sunny and warm, they’ve grown past all the early pest damage and the scarlet and canary yellow zinnias, purple and pink frilly asters and feathery white cosmos are all taller than the weeds and holding their heads up high, dressed in radiant colors. We’ve had a lot of pests and diseases to contend with this year too, slugs, grasshoppers and mildew being significant in my yard, but somehow now the sun is out, life feels more benevolent.
If you did as little gardening as I did this year, perhaps you’re ready to start thinking about a little digging and sowing next month to plant what I call our “free” flowers. Sown from late September trhough October, hardy annuals like regal purple larkspur, delicate pastel love in a mist, flouncy red and pink ruffled Shirley poppies, blue bachelor’s buttons and fragrant winged sweet peas will offer generous bloom in spring. The idea is to get seeds to germinate before the nights get too long and cold. If rains come late, sprinkle to bring the seedlings up, and don’t let the seedbed dry out once you start watering, but very little care is necessary; plants may look beaten down in late winter, but they’ll be making strong roots, then flush new leafy growth when the weather warms up and days get longer.
These independent generous flowers need only a little thinning and weeding, then they take care of themselves all winter long (with regular snail patrol). They use the winter’s rain to grow and protect the soil at the same time. After blooming, they’ll all set seed that you can harvest, or simply shake the plants around where you want them to grow in the future. All make wonderful bouquets to bring inside or give away, and several make good dried everlastings as well. Plant yourself a spring garden party!