I tried something a little different with my sunflowers this year. I sowed the seeds in narrow planters and lined the front of the deck. If all went according to plan, the seeds would produce tall, healthy specimens. The towering wall of sunflowers would face the kitchen but could also be enjoyed by passersby. I was jazzed!
My son helped me plant the first crop, which promptly disappeared. Squirrels made off with the seeds. A few went undetected, but once sprouted they ate those as well. I managed to preserve three plants. Moving on to plan B, I purchased more seeds, and started them indoors. I also planted a few in the side yard hoping the critters wouldn’t notice the new location. Last summer the flowers grew as tall as the house there. Alas, those too disappeared. Poof.
Indoors, the seeds sprouted quickly. I needed a plan to keep them safe. The morning of Mother’s Day, my husband helped me assemble what I now refer to as “screen savers,” a system I created with left over screening and sliding window screens from the hardware store. They worked!
I originally planned to remove the screens from the established plants, but the stalks remained on the thin side. The soil dried out quickly, even after I added a thick layer of mulch. Eventually the stalks cleared the top of the screens and started their accent. The birds arrived, pecking away at the leaves, creating patterns as they chipped away. Every few days, the plant added leaves and the birds came back for more.
This week, ninety days later and right on schedule, the sunflowers are in bloom. The original three are the hardiest of the plants and the first to bloom. They are taller and stronger than the others. The transplants are fairly weak, with bent stalks and smaller stems. But they too have buds.
What have I learned for next year?
- The planters need to be at least twice the current depth
- Sow directly into the soil, add lots of mulch, and screen
- Plant a lot more seeds, then thin when necessary
- Don’t give up hope!