August 7, 2011 lawanda Newspaper Columns

Nasturtiums are one of the easiest annuals to grow from seed and once they germinate, they are carefree until frost.
The big seeds look like bumpy brown peas, making them a good planting choice for beginning gardeners and children. Soaking the seeds overnight in warm water before planting makes them sprout faster. After all danger of frost is past in spring, plant the seeds ¾ inches deep, about 12 inches apart, in well-drained, average soil in full sun. While most plants appreciate a rich, fertile soil, nasturtiums will produce more flowers in poor soil.
Keep the seed bed moist until the plants germinate in about 10-12 days. Flowers will appear several weeks later. Do not give them any extra fertilizer or you will end up with many leaves and few flowers.
Nasturtiums have a taproot, like a carrot, so they do not do well with transplanting. If you want to start them ahead of time indoors, plant them in peat pots that can be moved directly into the garden bed.
The flowers are exquisite. They are funnel shaped, from 1 – 2 ½ inches across and range in color from white to cream to yellow to orange to red to a deep mahogany. Then there are the cream blooms streaked with red or pink, yellow streaked with orange, light orange streaked with darker orange . . . endless combinations depending on the cultivar.
Nasturtium leaves are interesting too. They are round to kidney-shaped and the stem is attached underneath in the exact center. The leaves have pretty star-shaped veins that radiate from their centers. There are some varieties with variegated leaves – streaked or splotched with white – but these varieties may not produce as many flowers.
Nasturtiums come in bush type or climbing types. The bush types form a nice mound of leaves before the flowers appear and are good for rock gardens, for edging borders or walkways, or just planted here and there throughout the vegetable garden to give it a colorful punch. The climbing or trailing types work in containers and hanging baskets or tumbling over walls. They can also be trained to climb fences and trellises.
All the above-ground parts of the nasturtium plant are edible. The leaves make a peppery addition to salads and sandwiches. They can be shredded to give a flavorful accent to pasta, rice or chicken salad. The flowers add a spicy, sweet taste as well as a pretty topping to a tossed salad. Both leaves and flowers can be cut into thin ribbons and mixed with butter or cream cheese for a spread, or tossed with egg salad, noodles, vegetables or fish. Unopened flower buds can be marinated in wine or vinegar to make a refrigerator pickle. The seeds can be pickled as well, and used as a substitute for capers.
If you have a couple minutes, google “nasturtium images” and you will fall in love with this gorgeous flower.


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