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Seed-Save This Year's Zinnias For Planting Next Spring

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Colorful zinnias add pizazz to your garden and they come in many shades and varieties, from super-tall with compact flowers to frilly. You can also save the seeds from this year's flowers to plant again next spring.

While fall produces garden color from hardy mums, tree and shrub foliage and asters, nothing beats the knock-out colors from zinnias. Now is a good time to take stock of your zinnia flowers, explore other varieties and plan on seed-saving and purchasing for next spring.

Fall is a great time of year to do a little zinnia evaluation: decide if you love the zinnia types you planted this year, take a look at some of the flower varieties that you see in your neighborhood and if you like them, make note of it.

This will help you plan which types to purchase next spring and plant in your own yards and gardens.

Autumn weather also gives you a great opportunity to save some seeds to plant next spring. And zinnias are an amazing plant that come in several sizes, colors and flower types.

The Persian carpet zinnia grow small flowers on a compact plant. Button box zinnias have tons of petals all rolled up into a button-shaped flower. These types also come in a variety of colors.

As always, plan your garden space based on sizes, height and growing conditions, as some zinnia plants grow three or four feet tall, like State Fair and Benarys Giant. Those boast beautiful single or double flowers.

Other zinnia types are disease-resistant, too. The Oklahoma series is a good one if you have problems with powdery mildew. An orange zinnia called cactus zinnia is a bit on the wild side, growing flowers that look like Medusa’s hair. And some, like the Profusion zinnia series look like little daisy flowers on a small, mounding plants.

Decide which you like and if they are heirloom zinnia varieties, like State Fair or the cactus type, you can save the seeds to grow next year.

An easy way to seed-save is to take a bag and cover a zinnia flower that's just opening now. Then keep it covered through the flower’s life cycle, until it starts drying out.

When it's dry, cut the flower and bag off, letting the seeds dry even further indoors. You can store the zinnia seed indoors all winter. Next spring, about four weeks before the last frost, plant them indoors in preparation for moving them back outdoors in late spring and summer.

This week, two listeners have similar questions about tomato blight and how to improve the quality of their soil for next season.

Q: I always get early blight on my tomato plants and think it must be in my soil from past years of poor garden clean up, before I knew better. Am I doomed or is there a way to get rid of it? - Clover, in Jericho

Q: What's the best way to prepare the soil for next spring in my raised beds after clearing out the blight-diseased tomato vines? I pulled all of them and put them - against my compost-mentality - into the trash. I'm concerned that the microbes or spores or cooties will stay in the soil and re-infect next year's crop. - Tricia in Middlebury

As your tomatoes are winding down, cut them down right on the soil line and remove them from the garden. Any of that plant material, whether it be leaves or old fruit, should be completely removed from your garden.

This helps get rid of some material that might be harboring disease.

Add some compost to the bed, cover it over with a mulch, hay or straw or chopped leaves. If you can, plant to rotate your crops next spring or avoid planting in the same garden bed.

This will protect the soil in the winter. And then next year, seek out some disease-resistant tomato plant varieties. There are some that are late- and early-blight intolerant if not resistant, such as Matt’s Wild Cherry, Defiant and Iron Lady.

If you're looking to learn more about growing flowering vines, Charlie Nardozzi has a webinar coming up on Oct. 7 at 7 p.m.

In his online class, "Growing Flowering Vines," Charlie will share his expertise on the different types of flowering vines.

He'll cover perennial and woody vines, such as climbing hydrangea and trumpet vine and herbaceous perennial vines, like mandevilla and clematis.

You'll learn how they attach to fences, trees or buildings, and what conditions they need to grow well in your lawn and landscape.

We've closed our comments. Read about ways to get in touch here.

All Things Gardening is powered by you, the listener! Send your gardening questions and conundrums and Charlie may answer them in upcoming episodes. You can also leave a voicemail with your gardening question by calling VPR at (802) 655-9451.

Hear All Things Gardening during Weekend Edition Sunday with VPR host Mary Engisch, Sunday mornings at 9:35.

Have questions, comments or tips? Send us a message or get in touch by tweeting us @vprnet.

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Mary Engisch is the host and reporter for Weekend Edition Saturday and Weekend Edition Sunday on VPR.
Charlie Nardozzi is a nationally recognized garden writer, radio and TV show host, consultant, and speaker. Charlie is the host of All Things Gardening on Sunday mornings at 9:35 during Weekend Edition on VPR. Be part of the fun and send your gardening questions here, for Charlie to answer on the air. Plus, find lots of great gardening tips and information for all seasons here. For more gardening information, check out Charlie's website, Gardening with Charlie Nardozzi. Charlie is a guest on VPR's Vermont Edition during the growing season. He also offers garden tips on local television and is a frequent guest on national programs.