Susan Slape-HoysagkOutside my backdoor is my kitchen garden or potager. This area is really more an herb garden now with a newer kitchen garden not too far away. Having the herbs right outside the kitchen door makes snipping fresh herbs for cooking so easy, even when winter brings early sunsets.

Potager, or a traditional kitchen garden, is a mix of edibles and non-edibles, flowers, herbs and vegetables. Some you will find to be very ornate, geometrical designs hedged with trimmed boxwoods. Mine, not so much. For the most part, the small area I call my kitchen garden is inhabited by frequently consumed edibles (in my household) such as green onions, lettuces, chards, radishes, spinach and mustards. Zinnias brighten the border and provide some companion benefits for certain vegetables.

Bright, bold zinnias are perfect vegetable garden companions. Photo courtesy Flickr/Scot Nelson

Bright, bold zinnias are perfect vegetable garden companions. Photo courtesy Flickr/Scot Nelson

If you hanker for easy, cheap and fast color – zinnias are your answer! Never boring, the bold zinnia rainbow of colors includes pinks, reds, oranges and yellow faces to brighten your garden wherever you plant these beauties. Want something less intense? Zinnias also come in white, pastels, and a wonderful chartreuse as well as multi- and bi-colors. Plant heights range from 18 to 36 inches. Then there are the multitude off shapes and flower forms including single, double, semi-double, quilled, cactus, pom-pom, crested and dahlia. Whew, so many to choose from!

Zinnias starts transplant well, and they also grow easily from seed in well-drained soil (Zones 2-11). Seeds give you myriad choices not found in store-bought transplants. Just be sure to plant in a sunny location, according to packet directions, and about four to six weeks before your last frost date. You could also get ahead of the game by starting your own transplants indoors; also four to six weeks before last frost. Remember, zinnias like warm weather. Fertilizing and watering regularly along with dead-heading old blooms will keep your zinnias blooming from mid to late summer.

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