Being one of the easiest cut flowers to cultivate, they are a perfect first crop for beginning growers but also serve as a steady stand in on almost every thriving flower farm I know of. We’ve been growing zinnias since the beginning and every year I fall more and more in love with them.
Like almost every other flower in our patch, we work hard to treat these guys as well as possible from day one. Before planting beds are given 3-4″ of compost, a light dusting of rock phosphate, a little lime and a big dose of a general organic fertilizer (Nature’s Intent 7-2-4).
This mix is tilled into the soil and then four lines of drip irrigation are laid down, roughly a foot apart and then the beds are covered with a layer of pre burned landscape fabric. Plants are spaced 9×9″ apart with five rows per bed and our standard seventy foot beds hold about four hundred and fifty plants. Originally we were worried about the tight spacing but they seem to like it just fine.
I know many growers in warmer parts of the world that are able to successfully direct seed their zinnias straight into the field but here in cool Washington we start our plants four to six weeks before setting them out. Zinnias resent cold weather and really prefer to be planted after things have warmed up a bit. Seeds are sown in 72 cell trays and planted out two to three weeks after our last frost date. Here they usually go into the field around mid May.
After the babies are snuggled into their permanent homes, we give them a twice monthly foliar application of compost tea (with fish and kelp) and weekly waterings through the drip lines. When plants are about 18″ tall we go through the patch and snip out the center flowers. This technique is called pinching and while is feels pretty counter intuitive at the time, it will encourage plants to begin branching low and ultimately produce much longer stems.
Johnny’s Select Seed is my favorite source for seed. They carry all of the great ones including the monster Benary Giant Series, the Giant Dahlia Flower Series, the bi-color Zowie, the massive magenta Uproar Rose and my personal favorite, the adorable Persian Carpet mix.
I’d love to know, what are your favorite zinnia varieties?