'Park's Picks' big-flowered zinnias at Becky Savitz's garden in Cashiers, NC. Photo by Steve Bender.

Are you looking for months of colorful flowers with minimal effort? Start your search with old-fashioned zinnias. If you can't grow these, you should give up gardening.

Grumpy knows what you're thinking. "Hey, it's summer! Isn't it too late to plant?" No! Because of their large, quick-germinating seeds, zinnias are one of the easiest annuals to grow from seed. Sow seed today and you'll have seedlings in a week and flowers in a rainbow of colors all the way through the fall.

emNo flowers are easier to start from seeds than zinnias. Photo by Steve Bender./em

You can start the seeds in pots, flats, cell-packs, or in the garden. In each case, all you have to do is is barely cover the seeds with moist soil and wait. As hot as it is now, germination won't take long. If you sow directly into the garden, watch out for slugs and snail eating your seedlings. Sprinkle some lime or diatomaceous earth around the base of the seedlings to discourage these slime balls.

emAll vegetable gardens need flowers. These zinnias decorate the Llorens garden in Atlanta./em

What Zinnias Need It's pretty simple. Give them sun and decent soil. That's it.

Why Grumpy Likes Zinnias I could give you a plethora of reasons, but let me just mention four: 1. They're very easy to grow 2. They come in lots of different colors 3. They make great cut flowers 4. Butterflies and hummingbirds love them

Zinnia Problems Slugs, snails, and Japanese beetles are the main critter pests. One of the most common fungal diseases is Alternaria leaf spot. It looks like this.

emZinnia leaf spot usually occurs in warm, rainy weather. Photo by reader Beth Crawford./em

Reddish-brown to purplish spots with tan centers spread all over the leaves. The tan centers may drop out, leaving holes, and then the leaves turn crispy and brown.

Another common leaf disease is powdery mildew. This fungus looks like a powdery film. It. too, causes leaves to wither and plant to die.

Both disease like the same conditions -- warm, rainy weather. Water splashes the disease spores from leaf to leaf, spreading the disease.

How to prevent this? First, avoid wetting the leaves while watering. Don't water with sprinklers. Second, spray your plants according to label directions with a systemic fungicide called Immunox. Finally, pick up any fallen infected leaves and throw them out with the trash.