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Planting Summer Flowers

Nothing spells summer to me like f-l-o-w-e-r-s.

Next to sprouting carrot tops and growing sweet potatoes in a jar of water, few garden plants are as rewarding as zinnias, marigolds and cosmos. They don't have many requirements to thrive and they produce such glorious blossoms.

As the original Fink Farm fills up with big bossy vegetables like indeterminate tomato plants, chard, basil and lettuces, herbs and ornamental plants get pushed elsewhere. A few years ago, we planted nasturtiums and marigolds in the flower beds that flank the front door.  There's good water there and afternoon shade. The nasturtiums have lingered on.

Farmer Karen had a burst of energy in late April and dug up a tough patch of ground along the front of the garage. It's tough for a number of reasons. An enormous tree once grew in that area, and while the tree became diseased and had to be removed, plenty of roots were left behind. There's some irrigation nearby, but the water barely reaches the garage. Lastly, the soil has probably been undisturbed since the house was built in 1954.  It certainly hasn't had compost.

Garden wisdom suggests that we should have been planting in March when the sun is gentler on new plants. We were otherwise engaged then. The mood struck in May, so that's when I gathered up my flats of zinnias, several varieties of marigolds, cosmos and an odd, wildflower-like plant with tiny sunset colored flowers from my favorite local nursery, Sego's.

I carefully measured out the spacing between plants, visions of a lush old-fashioned flower garden dancing in my head. In the past month, we've only lost one marigold plant. We've been diligent about carrying water cans out to supplement what comes from the irrigation system.

We were so pleased with our productivity, that we decided to plant another two or three feet east of our new flower bed with drought-resistant or California natives.  We ran off to the Theodore Payne Foundation for Wild Flowers and Native Plants. A lovely woman helped us as we dragged wagon and dog through the sales area. She gently persuaded us that putting drought-loving plants next to water-loving flowers, wasn't going to be a good idea. Nor, she pointed out, was planting just as the heat of the summer set in. We leashed in our enthusiasm, toured the gift shop, joined the foundation and bought a lovely T-shirt. We'll be back in the fall.

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