Over the decades I have fond memories of creating a children’s garden with my four children (now grown). In the 1990’s I started my first perennial and annual garden and had many successes and failures. I’d like to share some of my lessons learned and my favorite easy-to-grow seeds. I call these my ‘toss and grow’ seeds. You basically toss them into the ground, rake a little soil over them and water.
Zinnia: These are my favorite and top the list because: deer and rabbits do not eat them, they come in a variety of colors, heights and sizes. The flowers make excellent bouquets and the plants thrive with the pruning from cutting the flowers. They require full sun and air circulation to prevent mildew.
Cosmos: These are second on the list as they are also deer and rabbit resistant. They come in a variety of colors and sizes. The only reason they are not number one is that they tend to self seed and come back as their parent plant...tall (3’ or more) and all pink/purple. The finches love to eat the seed heads in the late summer. In your fall clean up, be sure to remove these plants at the end of the season.
Cleome: These are literally toss and grow seeds. These seeds need light to germinate, so you don’t even need to rake soil on top of them. The flowers are pink, purple, white and fuchsia. They will self-seed and also resemble their parent plant. Remove the seed pods before they burst or leave them for larger flowers the following year. However if your original seeds were short and a unique color, the self seeding will be tall and pink/white. Deer and rabbit-resistant is another big pro to this prolific bloomer!
Pumpkins : We have had so much fun growing Cinderella pumpkins. Once we even received a citation from the municipality because a grumpy person didn’t like the leaves growing on the broken, public handrail near the garden. We had a good giggle at this. Choose seeds that have a short growing cycle so they are ready for fall carving. Be sure to throw out old pumpkins because decaying pumpkins attract rats, deer, and other rodents.
Nasturtium: These flowers have large seeds and a high success rate, making them wonderful for children to plant. The flowers are also edible! They come in a variety of colors. Deer tend to avoid this peppery- flavored plant. An old-fashioned plant, nasturtiums deter pests by masking the scent of plants commonly targeted. The strongly-scented leaves actively repel certain pests and attract others as a “trap crop.” Nasturtiums can be planted as a sacrificial companion crop to attract cabbage white butterflies. This way, they’ll lay their eggs on your nasturiums, not your brassicas: broccoli, cabbage and kale. Nasturtiums can also help repel insects from eating your cucumbers and squash. Lastly, this charming plant’s blooms are important pollinators for bees and hummingbirds.
Other plants which are easy to grow but unfortunately, tasty to deer, groundhogs and rabbits are:
For plants that readily self-sow, the cycle begins when spent flower heads drop their seeds in autumn, and the seeds germinate in the spring as the soil warms. Seeds from heirloom flowers grow true to the parent stock. Hybridized seeds regrow with a variety of characteristics from the plants used to create the hybrid, so results are unpredictable. What you get is fun if you’re open to all of the possibilities. But if you selected the hybridized seeds for a specific quality, such as height, you might be unhappy with seedlings from the previous year’s flowers.
Be sure to read seed labels for spacing and sun requirements. Always plant once the soil has warmed and the risk of frost has passed. If you don’t have a sunny garden spot, consider planting some seeds in a pot on a bright deck or patio. Happy Planting! And Happy Spring!
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Gwen Wisniewski: Landscape and Garden Designer. Contact me. Let me help you integrate these garden inspirations. Choose the links below to find out more about my landscape design service or to make an appointment.