Vegetables you grow in your garden keep your body healthy, but flowers feed your soul.

By the time you read this column, it’ll be late June. Are you wondering if it’s too late to plant flowers? Then I’ve good news for you: You can still easily add flowers that will provide bright blossoms this summer, and the task is much simpler than starting vegetables at this date (which I wrote about last week).

For starters, you can go to your local garden center and buy healthy plants that already are in bloom with perfect flowers in just about any color you want. If you are into instant gratification – and if we are being perfectly honest here, isn’t everybody? – you can buy a container of mixed flowers and hang it up on your front porch or put it on a patio table. I’m not sure you can call that gardening, but it is plant appreciation.

“Go shopping” hardly makes a column, so let’s instead talk about what seeds you can plant now for blossoms this year. Don’t think you are alone: As I write this, we have in the garage a box with a dozen seed packets that are scheduled to go in a vacant spot in the vegetable garden. These include cosmos, three types of poppies (pepperbox, breadseed and something called Drama Queen), nasturtiums, bachelor’s button, zinnia, dill, a Purple Kisses flowering carrot that I bought from Fedco and, according to the packet, should have been planted in early May, and two packets of mystery seeds with different secret codes that we picked up at this year’s Maine Flower Show.

I really need to finish writing this column so I can get to work in the garden.

Planting the seeds isn’t hard. You have already completed the first step – which is to wait until all danger of frost is past. While in 1816 Maine reportedly had a frost every month of the year, that was the summer after a major volcanic eruption (in faraway Indonesia, but its impact was felt around the world). This year, all danger of frost appears to be past.

Use a spading fork – if you don’t have a spading fork, use a shovel or trowel – and turn over the soil where you will be planting. All of these flowers need full sun, especially since you are planting so late in the season. Break up any soil clumps and get rid of any large rocks. This is Maine, so expect to find rocks when you work your soil.

If you are doing this work in an existing flower garden, take care not to damage any neighboring plants.

Then read the seed packets, which will tell you how deep to plant the seeds and how far apart. Follow those instructions, and then firmly tamp down the soil with your hands. As you go from one packet to another, put labels into the ground – you think you will remember what you’ve planted, but you won’t. I know from experience.

Water the seeds regularly until seedlings emerge. By regularly, I mean every day that it doesn’t rain. Water gently, so you don’t expose the seeds.

Once the seedlings have emerged, thin out the weaker ones so you have the plants as far apart as the seed packets described. This is also when you remove the weeds that have sprouted along with your seedlings.

That is really all you need to know, but here’s a little more about the seeds I plan to plant.

Poppies are a bright, gorgeous flower. They self-seed easily, and our vegetable garden is full of poppies every summer that are descendants of seeds we received from the American Horticultural Society in the 1980s. The three packets of new seeds will just give us more variety.

Zinnias are old-fashioned, easy-to-grow flowers that come in many colors and shapes that range from daisy-like to almost full pompoms like dahlias. Buying a mixture means you don’t have to make a choice.

Nasturtiums come in bush and climbing varieties, and can take a bit of shade but do best in sun. They also prefer poor soil. We grew some last year that were supposed to be vining, but they didn’t grab the trellis like I expected them to. They did look good winding through some nearby coreopsis, however. The leaves and flowers are edible (as long as you do not spray your plants with anything other than water), so they make a good addition to salads and cold soups.

Bachelor’s buttons, also called cornflowers, are among the easiest flowers to grow. They are easy to cut for indoor arrangements, and if you hang them upside down they dry well for use in winter. They come in colors ranging from blue to pale pink and white, and the blooms are about the size of a quarter.

If you’re out buying seeds, you might add a packet of dill and plant that in with your flowers. Dill is a useful, easy to grow plant, very feathery and a self-seeder as well. I found a packet of that in the garage too.

The flowering carrot, I’m going to save until next May. It will give me something to look forward to. But other than the flowering carrot, I’m planting every last flower seed packet I find.

It’s time – past time – to get some color going in our garden.

Tom Atwell is a freelance writer living and gardening in Cape Elizabeth. He can be contacted at 767-2297 or at: [email protected]


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