As I look back over notes from the gardens of 2013, I am pleased. We were productive and met many goals. One of my goals was to finally, successfully grow sunflowers.
I know this may seem like a simple goal, one so simple why put it on paper, but I have had a terrible time with sunflowers. I would plant many seeds and only get a few flowers. Then, I had an epiphany- perhaps it wasn’t me that was a terrible sunflower grower but, perhaps, it was those pesky squirrels. As I am sure you know, squirrels love sunflower seeds. It seems that they would sit up on their branches and watch me plant then steal into the garden to help themselves. So, I got smart. I started my sunflowers in the greenhouse with all the other vegetable seedlings.
And success! I had very many sunflowers to transplant out and they did wonderfully. There is something that is just so happy about sunflowers in a garden, you can’t help but smile when you look at their sunny faces.
It is not too late to order and start your sunflowers. I order my seeds from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange and have had excellent germination rate that resulted in very healthy plants. The top of your refrigerator makes an excellent place to start seeds, once they poke their cute little cotyledons out of the soil, you need to move them to a sunny window unless you hang a light over the fridge. Florescent shop lights work great for this purpose and can be taken down once seed starting time is over.
Sunflowers like the sunshine so they won’t go to the garden until after the danger of the freeze has passed. In my area its looking like Easter will be the time to move warm season transplants out to the garden. There are many, many kinds to choose from, I choose varieties that were high in oil content as these are the ones the birds favor. Also, I did not want a hybrid because I wanted to save seeds so that I could spend that money on another variety! One can NEVER have too many flowers.
In this past season, I planted sunflowers at both ends of each row in my tomato patch and around the other veggie plots as well. This resulted in an unexpected benefit- the birds ate on the sunflowers all summer and didn’t touch a tomato until all the seeds had been eaten from the dried sunflower. Needless to say, this will be repeated. Only I will plant in succession so that that I can have sunflowers blooming until fall.
I did clip one sunflower just as the seeds ripened but before the birds ate them so keep for this year’s seeds.