Sunflowers are a great addition to any yard or garden; they are aesthetically appealing and attract pollinators. The sunflower has a root structure that prevents erosion and goes deep for water and nutrients that other crops cannot retrieve. They break up the soil, creating a more favorable growing environment for all plants that follow, and remove contaminants from the soil as they grow into beautiful displays to be enjoyed by everyone.
Whether cut for displays, consuming the seeds raw or roasted with your favorite spices, or fed to the birds during the winter, Sunflowers deserve a little space in every garden. The hardest part of growing Sunflowers is deciding which ones to plant.
There are single-stem and muti-stem varieties. To receive the most blooms for your multi-stem varieties, you simply pinch the center bloom; this will encourage the plant to create more branches, creating more blooms. There are pollenless varieties and the old-fashioned pollen makers that the pollinators will enjoy. The pollenless and old-fashioned pollen varieties both create nectar that benefits the pollinators.
Make sure the soil is at least 55 degrees before you plant the Sunflower seeds.
Sunflowers like a soil Ph of 6.0 to 7.5, while most vegetable gardens do well with a Ph between 5.8 and 7.5. Soil testing will inform you what your garden needs to produce healthy plants and high yields.
Ensure that the site you plan to plant receives 8 hours of direct sunlight per day. Sunflowers require full sun and about an inch of water per week.
If you are tilling, you will need to be sure the soil is dry before running the tiller; tilling wet soil will result in dirt clods that you will have to work around for the remainder of the summer.
Place the seeds 1 inch deep and firm the soil lightly. Succession planting should occur every 7 to 10 days if you are raising single-stem varieties to be cut for arrangements.
Once the plants have reached a height between 8 and 14 inches, apply 105 units of nitrates per acre alongside the Sunflowers, and take special care to keep the fertilizer off the plant. Ammonium nitrate (32-0-0) and urea (46-0-0) are commonly used. 100-foot rows spaced at 30 inches would need 1 unit of nitrates per row. Now would be a good time to cultivate the rows. The sunflowers will quickly grow after the fertilizer is applied. You will have a more difficult time cultivating once the middles have been overgrown; adding mulch to the middles after cultivation will help retain moisture and block sunlight from reaching the soil, thus preventing weeds from germinating.
As the Sunflowers grow, you will notice that they begin each day facing the east and follow the sun across the sky as the day progresses; once the stalks stiffen, the plant will no longer follow the sun but will face east continuously.
As the Sunflowers mature, you will notice the beautiful yellow petals fading away, and the back of the flower head will turn from green to brown. As the seeds mature, they will fill out, and the small flower on each seed will die back. If you plan to harvest the seeds, now is a good time to begin watching the back of the flower head. Once the back has transitioned from green to yellow to brown, the heads can be harvested and hung in a well-ventilated and dry location until the heads have dried enough to remove the seeds from the flower head easily.
More Garden Projects:
- Getting started in the garden is a great way to overcome winter blues. Get your gardening grove started with this easy Cabbage tutorial.
- Learn How to Build a Soil Sifter to improve seed germination and soil texture for both soil and compost.
- Consider making a DIY Grow Frame for indoor plants or as a gift to your favorite plant parent!
- This Planting Garlic with a custom dibbler is a simple, convenient project! The dibbler creates the perfect spacing and depth for your garlic, giving you perfect confidence that your garlic will be ready just in time for summer.