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Saturday, May 25, 2019

Seven Best Annuals for a Veggie Garden

Vegetable gardens can tend to look rather bland and can be more practical than beautiful. The addition of beautiful flowering plants can bring back the beauty that every garden deserves. Using the right annual plants strategically will not only bring the garden back to life visually but can help your veggies stay healthy and pest free.

This article references the first and the last frost dates. To find these dates for your area, click this link:    Https://garden.org/apps/calendar

1. Marigolds

Height 6”-18”

Days to Bloom from Seed: 50 – 80 days

Marigolds are a warm-season annual that's as easy to grow as they are cheerful. They thrive in warm weather and full sun and provide a splash of yellows, golds, oranges, and reds into summer and autumn gardens.

Benefits of Marigolds in the Vegetable Garden

  • Both French and African marigolds produce a substance called alpha-terthienyl which suppresses nematodes and microscopic worms that attach to the roots of some plants.
  • They draw in bees. It has been reported that bees prefer single bloom varieties.
  • They protect your tomato plants from nematodes, tomato hornworms, slugs, and other pests. The French Marigolds are the best choice for tomato protection.
  • They are great companions for lots of veggies including bush beans, broccoli, squash, eggplant, kale, and cabbage. They will deter pests like bean beetles, hornworms and leafhoppers. The French kind of Marigold is also best for this.    

How to Grow Marigolds From Seed

Direct Sow

Sow Marigold seeds directly into the garden or in a container once the soil has warmed. Marigolds will bloom from seed in roughly eight weeks.

Planting Out

Plant Marigolds 7” apart after all threat of frost has passed. If you've grown them from seed, the plants will need to be hardened off first. 

To read our article on how to harden off your plants, click here.

Caring for Marigolds

Sun: They love sun and heat.

Soil: Moderately fertile and well-drained.

Water: Allow the water to dry out between waterings then soak through.

Fertilizer: A slow-acting fertilizer at planting time is sometimes all they will need.  Do not fertilize during active growth.


Deadheading the spent blooms will greatly increase the number of blooms as well as lengthen the blooming time.

Mulch to prevent weeds, keep roots cool and conserve moisture.

2. Nasturtium

Height 6” - 12”

Days to Bloom from Seed: 35 to 50 days
Nasturtiums are cool-season annuals that is low-growing and just plain beautiful. They come in a variety of types including compact, dwarf, climbing, and trailing.

Benefits of Nasturtium in the vegetable garden

  • Nasturtium attracts hoverflies which destroy aphids.
  • They improve the flavor of cucumbers and deter whiteflies and cucumber beetles.
  • They deter squash beetles and borers when planted next to melons and squash.
  • They keep away Japanese beetles, aphids, cabbage loopers, and cabbage worms when planted near any vegetable in the cabbage family.
  • They repel the coddling moth when planted under apple trees.
  • They help in the herb garden by attracting pollinators such as hummingbirds and bees.
  • They keep away Colorado Potato bugs.

How to Grow Nasturtium From Seed

Direct Sow

Nasturtium seeds are fairly large and can be planted directly into the garden. Sow them an inch deep after the danger of frost has passed.

Planting Out

Plant Nasturtium 10” apart as soon as nighttime temperatures are in the 50s. If the nighttime temps dip down after that, cover them for the night to prevent damage.

Care for your Nasturtium

Sun: Give Nasturtium some protection from strong sun and strong winds.

Soil: They can thrive even in poor soil.

Water: They prefer drier soil, but don't allow them to totally dry out.

Fertilizer: Feeding them with liquid fertilizer will ensure plenty of blooms throughout the season.

Care: Pinch out runners to encourage more flowers or to grow in a more compact shape.
Mulch to prevent weeds, keep roots cool and conserve moisture.

3. Sunflowers

Height: 4' to 12'

Days to bloom from seed: 80 – 120 days

Sunflowers are warm-season annuals that comes in an endless array of sizes.

Benefits of Sunflowers in the vegetable garden

  • Sunflowers draw local birds to your garden.
  • They lure in beneficial insects which then improve the pollination of fruits and veggies and plants.
  • The tall varieties of Sunflowers can give some much-needed
  •  respite to those shade-loving veggies.
  • Sunflowers can be used as a trellis for climbing plants that have lots of nectar to attract even more pollinators.

How to Grow Sunflowers From Seed

Direct Sow

Sow the large seeds directly into the ground once all threat of frost has passed. The soil temperature needs to be 70 – 75 degrees for the Sunflower seeds to germinate.

Indoor Sow

For an earlier start, sow Sunflower seeds indoors three weeks before the expected last frost date.

Planting Out

Plant out Sunflower plants or seedlings after the threat of frost has passed.

Care for your Sunflowers

Sun: Full sun.

Soil: Compost rich soil.

Water: Frequent water, but never soggy. They are drought-tolerant.

Fertilizer: The larger the sunflower head, the more nutrition the plant will need. Use a well-balanced water-soluble fertilizer a few times during the blooming season. Be aware that too much nitrogen may delay flowering.


Stake tall cultivars.
Mulch to prevent weeds, keep roots cool and conserve moisture.

4. Borage

Height: 18” - 36”

Days to bloom from seed: 50 – 60 days

Borage is a warm-season annual herb that is often overlooked as a veggie garden helper. It is easy to grow as well as virtually problem-free. It has beautiful flowers that start out pink and turn a vivid blue.

Benefits of Borage in the vegetable garden

  • Borage attracts pollinating bees. It's considered a bee magnet!
  • It deters cabbage moths.
  • It's a great companion plant for tomatoes by deterring tomato hornworms.
  • Borage acts as a slug and snail trap with its hairy leaves.
  • It self seeds in colder climates so plant once and give it some room to expand if desired.

How to Grow Borage From Seed

Direct Sow

Direct sow Borage seeds after all risk of frost have passed. Borage is very sensitive to transplanting, so direct sowing is recommended rather than starting them indoors.

Planting Out

Plant Borage plants 12” apart after the damage of frost has passed. Choose an area that is sheltered from high winds.

Care for Borage

Sun: Grows best in full sun to part shade.

Soil: Tolerant of any type of soil.

Water: Moderate water.

Fertilizer: None, unless the soil is very poor.


Pinch back stems to encourage branching or to keep them shorter. Mulch to prevent weeds, keep roots cool and conserve moisture.

5. Calendula (Potted Marigold)

Height: 18” to 24”

Days to bloom from seed: 45-60 days.

Calendula is an annual herb that grows quickly and is tolerant of cooler temperatures. It blooms well into the fall season.

Benefits of Calendula in the vegetable garden

  • Calendula attracts beneficial insects such as ladybugs, hoverflies and lacewings.
  • It attracts bees and butterflies.
  • It is considered a “trap crop.” It traps pests like aphids, whiteflies, and thrips by exuding a sap that they find more appealing than nearby crops.
  • Growing it near cabbage results in fewer problems with aphids, cabbage worms, and diamondback moths.

How to Grow Calendula From Seed

Direct Sow

Direct sow from early Spring through the Summer.

Sow Indoors

Sow Calendula seeds 4-6 weeks before your expected last frost date.

Planting Out

Plant out Calendula plants 9” apart after all threat of frost has passed.

Care for your Calendula

Sun: Full sun to part shade. Flowers last longer when sited in filtered sun or shady areas.

Soil: Sandy, compost, rich soil.

Water: Light watering throughout the garden season.

Fertilizer: Light fertilizer to increase bloom.


Deadhead to increase bloom.
Mulch to prevent weeds, keep roots cool and conserve moisture.

6. Zinnia

Height: 18” - 24”

Days to bloom from seed: 60 – 75 days

With its long-lasting blooms and ability to thrive in virtually any condition, even hot sun as well as damp, cool areas, Zinnia makes an easy choice to plant in your vegetable garden.

Benefits of Zinnia in the vegetable garden

  • Zinnia attracts beneficial pollinators.
  • It attracts beneficial insects like lacewings, ladybugs, hoverflies, and parasitic wasps.
  • It deters cucumber beetles and tomato worms.
  • It attracts hummingbirds that eat whiteflies. Whiteflies are known to damage tomatoes, cucumbers, and potatoes.
  • The pastel-colored Zinnia serve as a trap crop for Japanese beetles.

How to Grow Zinnia From Seed

Direct Sow

Direct sow when all threat of frost has passed. Zinnias do not like to be transplanted so direct sowing is recommended.

Planting Out

Plant Zinnia plants 6-12” apart after all threat of frost has passed.

Care for your Zinnia plants

Sun: Full sun.

Soil: Zinnia can perform in average soil, but best with organic matter added.

Water: Thrive in dry conditions. Water thoroughly less often.

Fertilizer: An application of slow-release fertilizer at plant out and again mid-season will help Zinnia plants to grow strong and healthy.

Care: For bushier Zinnia plants, pinch off an inch from the tips of the main stems while the plants are still young.

Mulch to prevent weeds, keep roots cool and conserve moisture.

7. Cosmos

Height: 1' to 5'

Days to bloom from seed: 50-60

Cosmos is a heat-loving annual that has bright, colorful daisy-like blooms on long stems with fern-like leaves. Their single or semi-double blooms are great for cutting. It's easy to sow from seed, a low-maintenance annual and will bloom until frost.


Benefits of Cosmos in the vegetable garden

  • Cosmos attracts birds and butterflies.
  • It attracts aphids drawing them away from other plants.
  • The white and orange Cosmos attract bees and green lacewings.
  • If planted between rows of corn, Cosmos deters the corn worm.
  • Cosmos is particularly useful late in the season to attract pollinators for beans and tomatoes.

How to Grow Cosmos From Seed

Direct Sowing

Direct sow after danger of all frost has passed.

Planting Out

Plant out Cosmos plants after danger of frost is passed.

Care for your Cosmos plants

Sun:  Full sun.

Soil: Cosmos can grow in poor soil.

Water: Cosmos likes drier soil. Overwatering can lead to fewer flowers.

Fertilizer: A general-purpose fertilizer a few times during the season will keep Cosmos stay healthy.

Care: Deadhead blooms for branching.

Cosmos reseeds easily and will self-sow if not deadheaded.

Give Cosmos protection from strong winds.


Growing annuals and vegetables together can not only add beauty to your vegetable garden, but it's a great organic choice for pest control!


Love hostas or know someone who does?
Visit our website for great hostas at an affordable price!

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Best Hostas for Beginners


One of the reasons that hostas have remained so popular in the perennial garden is the beauty of their leaves. For the first-time hosta grower, though, there are some hostas that are easier to grow and care for than others.


Here at Sunset Hosta Farm, we grow and sell a number of great hostas at an affordable price. These are the hosta cultivars that we think are the easiest to grow and are perfect for new hosta growers.

Click on the hosta name to see more pictures and descriptions.

Mature Size: Large Height: 22” Width up to 40”

If you want a bright yellow color and you want it fast, this is the hosta for you. Dancing Queen has deep veins and heavily textured leaves. It emerges bright yellow in the spring and fades to pale yellow over the summer. Lavender flowers contrast nicely with the golden foliage in mid-summer. Place near dark blue or green hostas and watch it stand out. A fast, reliable grower, too.

Mature Size: Small to Medium Height: 9” Width up to 24”

Friends grow into a small mound of rippled gold foliage. The tips of the leaves are slightly twisted. The leaves will brighten to yellow by mid-summer. It's a fast grower and very pretty. Displays lavender to white throats in late summer. Looks great in groups, and in the front of a hosta bed.

Mature Size: Large Height: 24” Width up to 54”

Guacamole is one fast grower and will fill an area quickly. It forms large, dense clumps and thrives in partial shade where the sun can brighten the leaf centers. Its avocado green leaves are shiny with a dark green wide margin. The leaves are moderately folded. Fragrant white blooms appear in early summer making it perfect for planting near walkways, patios, decks or paths. Very sun tolerant. 2002 Hosta of the Year.

Mature Size: Mini Height: 7” Width up to 15”

Hush Puppie is the perfect border or edging plant because of its vigorous growth rate and smaller size. It has cute twisted dark green leaves with white creamy edges. It blooms purple in early summer. Great for fairy gardens, rock gardens, and troughs and especially cute when planted en masse.

Mature Size: Medium Height: 15” Width up to 38”

The blue-green heart-shaped leaves of Blue Cadet are heavily textured and have a nice mounding habit. Its vigorous growth habit will fill an area quickly. Tubular lavender flowers rise above the foliage mid-summer. It's a very popular blue hosta because of the variety of uses as a border, ground cover, edging plant. Great for containers, to boot!

MATURE SIZE: Medium   Height: 18” Width up to 30”

The reverse sport of H. Patriot, this hosta features dark green margins and white centers. The leaves are of very heavy substance. It displays pale lavender flowers in mid-summer. A great specimen plant and a real beauty. Always on top of the customer favorite list and one of the best white-centered hostas ever!

MATURE SIZE: Large    Height: 23” Width up to 50”

A Sunset Hosta Farms favorite. This sport of H 'Francee' has stunning, very dark green leaves surrounded by a pure thick white margin. One of the most popular white-margined hostas for good reason. Pale flowers appear in early to mid-summer. Sun tolerant, too. Pictures don't do this one justice.

MATURE SIZE: Large     Height: 26” Width up to 60”
The compact shape of So Sweet makes this hosta ideal for edging a shady garden. The leaves are glossy green with creamy yellow margins that fade to white later in the season. Its compact growth makes it great for containers, too. It’s sun tolerant as well as fragrant. 1996 Hosta of the Year.

Mature Size: Mini/Small Height: 8” Width up to 19”

A sport of 'Blue Mouse Ears', this charmer boasts thick round variegated leaves with a creamy margin. It will attract hummingbirds in late spring with its short spikes of dark lavender flowers. Cute! A must-have for any mouse-ear collector.

The Tiara Series Hostas are all small and easy to grow.

Size: Small    Height: 12” Width up to 20”

Amber Tiara has thick chartreuse oval-shaped leaves with a blunt tip. It forms an attractive dense mound. The flowers are light purple on 22” scapes in late summer. Give this Tiara more sun for its best color.

Size: Medium Height 14” Width up to 24”

Emerald Tiara is the reverse mutation of H. 'Golden Tiara.' It emerges early in the season and boasts the same round textured oval leaves as other Tiaras but with gold centers with beautiful green variations appearing throughout the season. One of its best features is that it will sport hundreds of dark lavender flowers in the summer that bloom into the fall. Very cute. Sun tolerant, too.

Size: Medium Height 16” Width: Up to 30”

Golden Tiara is a medium-size mounding variety. It has chartreuse to gold margin surrounding a medium green center. Medium to deep purple flowers appears in late July. It’s sun tolerant and will brighten up any shady area. Looks great in wide shallow containers. 1996 Hosta Merit Award winner.

Size: Medium Height: 18: Width up to 44”

The leaves of Grand Tiara are thick, heart-shaped, ovate and wavy. The gold margin is much wider than 'Golden Tiara' which gives the effect of a golden yellow leaf with a center splash of green. Good sun tolerance. The morning sun enhances the leaf color. In summer, the clumps are literally smothered with scapes of purple flowers making it one of the most popular Tiaras.

Size: Small Height 12” Width up to 30”

Platinum Tiara Hosta is a white margined sport of H ‘Golden Scepter’. The small, roundish leaf is a pale green-gold with a white edge and some light streaking throughout. This is a tremendous grower and looks great in masses. A real charmer and a Sunset Hosta Farm favorite.

Mature Size: Medium Height: 20” Width up to 35”

A beautiful hosta from the Star Trek series and a sport of Captain Kirk, Vulcan is a fast-growing white-centered hosta that has large, broad creamy white leaves with dark green margins. Irregular gold streaks occur along the interior margins where the white and green overlap. Pale lavender flowers emerge in mid to late summer. Holds it colors throughout most of the season. A real stunner, and a Sunset Hosta Farms favorite.

Mature Size: Medium Height: 16” Width up to 36”

An oldie but a goodie. Wide Brim shows off its rippled emerald heart-shaped leaves with buttery margins. Attractive flower buds open to slender spikes of pale lavender flowers in mid to late summer. Prefers shade three-fourths of the day. Site with good light to filtered shade for its best color.

Mature Size: Medium Height: 18” Width up to 40”

This early emerging and fast-growing hosta grow into a three-foot-wide clump of shiny green/blue leaves with a wide rippled golden margin. It's topped with 20” scapes of lavender flowers in mid-summer. Prefers full shade to light shade or potted. A real eye-catcher.

Mature Size: Medium Height: 14” Width up to 36”

Stunning by itself or in a group, First Frost is a real beauty. Unlike other hostas that begin to fade as early as August, First Frost keeps looking good well into the Fall. Photos do not do this 2010 Hosta of the Year justice. Beautiful blue/green leaves with yellow to white edged margins. It blooms lavender in late summer. Also slug resistant and sun tolerant. Best sited in filtered morning sun and afternoon shade. One of the prettiest variegated hostas and a Sunset Hosta Farm favorite.

Mature Size: Medium Height: 16” Width up to 37”

June's leaves are of thick substance, 6” long and 4” wide at full growth making it very slug resistant. It sports a nice gold center and blue-green margins. The leaf center will turn green if sited in deep shade. Pretty lavender blooms in the summer. A sport of the popular H. Halcyon. Very pretty as well as sun tolerant. Part of our Hosta of the Year series. (2001)

Mature Size: Mini/Small Height: 8” Width up to 19”

2008 Hosta of the Year for good reason. The medium blue/green mouse ear shape of the leaves is nothing short of adorable! Outstanding lavender to white lily-like flowers atop graceful stalks in summer. Great for rock gardens, fairie gardens, and borders. Very popular and a must-have for any hosta garden.

Mature Size: Very Large Height: 36” Width up to 72”

One of the largest hostas available today and one of the earliest hostas to emerge in the spring. It has broadly ovate leaves which form a huge mound of lime green leaves with a glossy texture. The leaves of Sum and Substance change to yellow when exposed to more sunlight. It has pale lavender blooms in mid-summer. It's sun and heat tolerant. Deserved the distinction of Hosta of the Year in 2004.


A word of warning: There is a reason there are so many HostaHolics! They're like good potato chips. You can't have just one!


Visit our website for great hostas at an affordable price!


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