Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Sunflowers!

Sunflowers are a fun addition to the garden. Here are reasons everyone should grow them.

Beauty - Sunflowers are beautiful. When the Illinois Blacksmith John Deere was choosing colors for his new plow, I bet he was looking at a sunflower. The deep green and yellow are synchronous as opposed to corn where the green and yellow are asynchronous. How can you look at a sunflower and not smile? One fresh sunflower makes a great centerpiece for the table.

Colossal size – Sunflowers are like daisies on radioactive steroids. Here I stand next to my sunflowers. I am 6’4” tall. That biggest sunflower is over 9 feet tall. WOW!

Attracts beneficials - A sunflower is a huge billboard to the pollinating insect world that says “EAT ME”. When you have sunflowers every pollinator knows where to go. The morning feast in a sunflower head is entrancing. Go out early and you will be amazed at the bees, wasps, and ants all jockeying for position to get the nectar and in return pollinate the hundreds of florets in each head. You can stick your face right up to the head to watch. The pollinators are so focused on their work that they don’t notice you. These same pollinators will go on to pollinate other plants in the garden. When the flowers are gone and the seeds set, here come the birds that will also gobble up some of those pesky bugs in the garden.

Disease and insect resistant – There are not very many diseases or insects that bother sunflowers.

Incredible roots – The roots penetrate several feet down in to the soil to add organic matter and improve the tilth. They can actually help break up hard pan and draw up that deep moisture.

Drought resistant - The deep roots make them drought resistant. We have not watered our sunflowers since they were a foot tall and this summer has been very dry. Note how brown the pasture is behind the sunflower stalks.

Weed resistant – Because the roots are so efficient in collecting water, other plants can’t compete with sunflowers. Make sure you keep them a few feet from your other fruits and vegetables.

Windbreak - I have notices that they actually serve as a little windbreak for the garden.


Harvest - Sunflower seed yield is incredible. Whether you or the birds eat them, someone will have their fill. Try this. Fill your right cheek full of sunflower seeds. Then one by one crack each seed with your teeth and tongue, spit out the hulls, and move the kernels over to your left cheek. When you have processed them all, you will have a nice cheek full of kernels to chew up and swallow. This improves mouth dexterity and it’s a lot healthier than chewing tobacco.

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