The Q&A Archives: Tall Annuals for School Garden

Question: Last fall our school planted thousands of spring bulbs. We now need to start annuals from seed to tuck in between the bulbs after they are done blooming. They will be seen from a distance, so bright colors and height are factors to consider. But our biggest concerns are that they be low-maintance (not too much deadheading), have good disease and pest resistance (we are trying to make it organic for the children) and are easily started from seed. Our garden is large, about 350 square feet. Thank you!!

Answer: Congratulations on your garden--it sounds wonderful! My favorite easy-to-grow annual flowers are cosmos, zinnias, and sunflowers. There are many different varieties of each of these. You can start the cosmos and zinnias indoors about 6 weeks before your last frost date if you can provide them with supplemental fluorescent light, but sunflowers are best direct sown in the garden. (Actually, all can be direct sown.) Nasturtiums are also easy to grow, but note that they flower best in relatively poor soil. If you have a fence or trellis in the garden, consider morning glories. You could also throw in some attractive vegetables, such as Swiss chard. And a small pumpkin patch might be a big hit, because the pumpkins will be ready when the children return to school in the fall.

Good luck!

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