Single stemmed and super tall, the vibrant blossoms of zinnia flowers are an irresistible pollinator magnet
Zinnias are annual flowers that bloom reliably from mid-summer to frost, are pollinator and butterfly magnets, make great cut flowers and are easy to grow.
Zinnias are an annual flower native to dry grasslands in the southwestern United States, Central America and Mexico. And they grow well in our region, too.
With their solitary stems and 12-petaled flowers, zinnias bloom in a multitude of bright colors. These flowers bloom from mid-summer to frost and continue to crank out beautiful large blossoms that are natural magnets for pollinators and butterflies.
The most common varieties you see growing in Vermont gardens and landscapes are the zinnia elegans species.
If you're looking for more traditional varieties, try ones like, “State Fair Mix." These grow 3 to 5 feet tall with large, colorful flowers. For shorter versions, try "Profusion" and "Zahara." These only grow a foot or two tall, and work great in borders or containers.
Zinnias that have a cactus-like appearance are available, too, plus a new series called “Queeny Lime," which grows to 3 feet tall with multiple colors within each blossom, like red and lime or orange and lime.
And wild zinnias, or zinnia hygena, are now commercially available in varieties like “Persian Carpet,” which has smaller, double flowers, and “Red Spider" that looks more like an echinacea than a traditional zinnia.
Whichever types you choose, begin to grow your zinnia plants indoors about a month before you plan to put them outdoors. In our area, plant indoors in late April for a Memorial Day planting outdoors.
Once planted, top them to make them bushier and you’ll be on your way to bright, bold colors in your yard and gardens (and to snip for long-stemmed cut flowers, too!) this spring.
An audience member's tomato has lasted for months after harvest
Q: I have had a cherry tomato on my counter for well over two months and it has not gone bad at all! It is absolutely perfect, just as it was well over two months ago. Any comments on that? - Andrew, via voicemail
A: You've had a cherry tomato last a long time! And that is not an unusual trait for some varieties of tomatoes. These tomato types have certain genetics that allow them to slowly mature and not rot.
If you like the cherry tomatoes, plant those again this spring knowing how well they keep. One full-size type to try with the same characteristics is named “Long Keeper” and will last just as long after ripening.
A listener wants to know how best to mitigate jumping worms
Q: I recently learned of an unwelcome invasive here: the jumping worm. I personally know two people who have infestations in their gardens and they live 50 miles apart from each other. My question: Do you know how widespread the problem is and is hand-picking the only way to fight them off? - Mike, in Hyde Park
A: Snake worms, also known as jumping worms or Asian snake worms, are pretty widespread in Vermont and a lot of other states.
These earthworms are very hungry and eat much more than European earthworms or nightcrawlers, thus producing more castings that don’t add as much value to the soil.
Jumping worms also reproduce quicker and can devastate a forested or a perennial area, because they eat all the organic matter there. New seeds, saplings and plant growth don’t have a chance to flourish underneath the forest, leaving it looking barren just with the trees.
The same issue can happen in your garden if jumping worms are around. If you see these earthworms in your garden, the best thing to do is to pick them and to throw them into a plastic bucket or a plastic bag and just let them dry out in the sun.
Josef Görres is an entomologist at the University of Vermont and has information on mitigating jumping worms.
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