2016-07-07 / From The Garden

Planting Now Yields Labor Day Bounty

By Cynthia Gibson

The Teddy Bear is an unusual member of the sunflower family. It has cuddly-looking, 4-5 inch fully-doubled yellow flowers and makes a unique addition to larger floral arrangements. The Strawberry Blond sunflower is the first rose-pink sunflower. It grows to 6 feet tall, with lemon and rose-pink flowers. The Teddy Bear is an unusual member of the sunflower family. It has cuddly-looking, 4-5 inch fully-doubled yellow flowers and makes a unique addition to larger floral arrangements. The Strawberry Blond sunflower is the first rose-pink sunflower. It grows to 6 feet tall, with lemon and rose-pink flowers. For those of you who are late bloomers, there is still time to plant a few vegetable crops and flowers to brighten your landscape.

There are some small crops like miniature carrots and radishes that have already been picked; this means it’s time for a second crop, and it’s best to plant now. Over the course of a summer, you have a chance to grow radishes, small carrots, beets, and lettuces at least three times. You can also re-seed kale. Pak choi, or bok choy, seeds go into the vegetable garden this time of year as well. In July the earth is rich and warm, providing perfect conditions for vegetable seeds to germinate. Seeds almost like heat more than water.


The name “nasturtium” comes from the Latin for “nose twist” (nas meaning “nose” and tortum meaning “twist”). This is because of the flower’s peppery taste and spicy scent and the way people twist their noses when they eat or smell it. They are popular with chefs and gardeners because the colorful flowers not only dress up a plate, but are high in vitamins A, C and D. The name “nasturtium” comes from the Latin for “nose twist” (nas meaning “nose” and tortum meaning “twist”). This is because of the flower’s peppery taste and spicy scent and the way people twist their noses when they eat or smell it. They are popular with chefs and gardeners because the colorful flowers not only dress up a plate, but are high in vitamins A, C and D. If you are using an enriched pre-fertilized potting soil, do not add extra liquid fertilizer, especially if there is no rain or if you forget to water. The added fertilizer can burn your seeds and seedlings, and your new crop will be lost.

Some of the most carefree looking flowers in summer are planted now. Cosmos are always charming blowing in a mild breeze; nasturtiums come in so many new colors with variegated leaves; and the ever sturdy zinnia is a must for summer gardens. These three flowers will never fail you.

Cosmos are daisy-like flowers and are easy to care for. Plant them in full sun; they tolerate a wide range of soil types, and are drought resistant. However, they will produce more and larger flowers if they are watered regularly. Cosmos are daisy-like flowers and are easy to care for. Plant them in full sun; they tolerate a wide range of soil types, and are drought resistant. However, they will produce more and larger flowers if they are watered regularly. Zinnias come in colors that are almost Day-Glo; the green ones are particularly handsome. Plant them now, and you will have flowers by mid-August. The cut-and-come again varieties are excellent, as they provide enough flowers for summer bouquets but do not leave a garden bed looking empty. Zinnias can last up to a week in your house if you change the water every two days and re-snip the stems. As a cut flower they cannot be beat.

Cosmos and nasturtiums are more fragile, but so whimsical and sweet in a vase. The trailing varieties of nasturtiums look fabulous cascading over the sides of a terra cotta pot. You can create a floral waterfall of brilliant reds, yellows and oranges.

The mighty sunflower can be planted at this time of year as well. It is a bit late to plant the gigantic sunflower varieties, but the short- to mid-height varieties could be planted this week. You will have armfuls by Labor Day.

Be on the lookout for some of the newer types of sunflowers. For example, the Teddy Bear sunflower has double petals and looks as if it could be picked from a Van Gogh still life painting. Choco Sun is a more refined sunflower, with graceful single petals and a medium sized brown center. But if you are going for the “wow factor” in your garden or pots, plant Strawberry Blond. It has petals that start out white then abruptly change to light pink and stop with the color of mahogany. They are showstoppers.

None of these flowers is fussy, and they all grow in regular untreated soil. No extra fertilizer is needed, and they like being watered twice a day if in pots.

So while there is still time, plant a few of these vegetables or charming flowers. Summer has just begun, and there is no finer hostess gift or gift to yourself than fresh veggies or a bouquet from the garden.

Gardening Tip

Have you noticed that most of the rain showers and predicted thunderstorms have passed our part of Rhode Island? We rely on rain to take care of watering our vegetable and flower beds throughout June, but the month was dry. Now that we are in July, we know temperatures will rise, and the heat dries out pots and flowerboxes quickly. Check pots, particularly those with seeds just sewn, and keep the soil moist but not soggy. Water once in the morning and once in the late afternoon, and plants and flowers should pop up in no time.

Cynthia Gibson is a gardener, food writer and painter. She gardens and tends her miniature orchard in Newport.

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