Sunflowers Under Cover

A few years back, I had to plant my sunflower seeds three times.  The first crop, lovingly planted with my son, disappeared.  I’m not naming names, but I saw this little fella in the neighborhood around the same time.

grey squirrel

Doesn’t he look guilty?

I planted the second batch indoors, then transplanted them, but they were leggy and weak.

Refusing to be outsmarted yet again, I came up with a solution after wandering around the hardware store.  I bought small screens, designed to be placed in windows for about $6 a piece.  Any money I saved buying seeds instead of starter plants went out the window that year, but since then, they’ve proved to be an investment.  I even loaned them to a friend off-season to rabbit-proof one of her plants.  You can read my screen saver tutorial here.

This year, I simply planted the seeds and immediately covered them.  Within two weeks, they’ve sprouted and grown.  Once they’ve set true leaves, I’ll uncover them and off we’ll go.

mouse on deck screen savers

Screen Savers protect this year’s crop

They’re not pretty, but they get the job done and they are only there temporarily. Mouse keeps a close eye on things.

screen savers

Screening allows air and water to circulate

sunflower seeds under screen saver

Budding sunflowers

I planted two varieties this year, both from Botanical Interests®: Sunflower Snacker and Sunflower Florist’s Sunny Bouquet, both Helianthus annuus (hybrid). The Snackers, planted in the back row, will grow 6′ – 8′ tall (1.8 – 2.4 m). The Florist’s Sunny Bouquet are a shorter variety, reaching 4′ – 5′ tall (1.2 – 1.5 m).

Please pop by again for updates. Meanwhile, how do you outsmart the foragers in your neighborhood?

25 thoughts on “Sunflowers Under Cover

  1. Ingenious!! But my, those little grey squirrels are so very cute! I am now entirely interested to find out how you will keep these fellows upright when they are full grown – or do they not require any help? As you can tell I have never grown them myself so know nothing about what their requirements are.

    In response to your question – and I’m not sure if I have mentioned this to you previously – I have created a little wilderness area in one corner of my pocket handkerchief to try and encourage a hedgehog or two to come live with us. They will take care of the slugs and snails 🙂 So far no luck but I am hopeful for spring!

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    • The squirrels are adorable. So much so that we used to feed them peanuts in the shell by the bag full. My neighbor took over so we stopped. Sometimes they gather the peanuts from her yard, and eat them on my patio table. Hilarious!

      The thicker sunflower stalks support themselves. Some can get as thick as a garden house. They’re fibrous too. I’ve had some bend over in the wind before they were established (small root system) but other years they’re fine on their own.

      I do remember your comment about the handkerchief garden as I thought it such a dear term. Perhaps word isn’t out yet. Once the snails descend, surely the hedgehogs won’t be far behind.

      We occasionally see opossums in the neighborhood, and they too are supposed to like snails. My guess is they are currently outnumbered!

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  2. That is such an ingenious idea! Did you go to the store knowing that is what you were looking for, or did inspiration hit when you saw them?

    Mouse the Guardian is doing his job there. Is he repaying you for the comfort you provide on the deck?!

    For me snails and caterpillars are the main pests. I have put crushed eggshell around the seedlings that snails like. Apparently it confuses the white cabbage moths too. They flit away to lay their eggs elsewhere. Or that is the theory!

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  3. You’ll have a whole lot of cheer right outside your kitchen window or enjoying the front patio too. They sound massive. I was wondering too if you need to stake them. Have you posted before about the heads once they’ve gone to seed? I’ve seen people here leave them out for the winter birds. I visited a local community garden up the road last summer and got some great sunflower pictures. The Bumble Bees were loving them big time. So it looked like a great way to attract Bumble Bees to the garden, do you think?

    Eeer, I don’t know if Mr fluffy pants squirrel looks guilty, but I feel a little guilty for thinking he’s as cute as can be. Even if he’s a potential seed thief, tehe. I shouldn’t be pointing fingers, but I’d have to say he does look a wee bit chubby (hello pot, it’s the kettle here, LOL). I’m surprise they still hang around with Mighty Mouse on duty. Mouse is so blinded with love, he probably wouldn’t even notice them marauding threw those yummy sunflowers. 😀 That cat has good taste xoxoK

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    • It’s been fun having them right outside the kitchen window and on the deck. I spend more time looking at them then I would out back. Some years I’ve staked (or really tied together) the stalks, other years they’re so thick and sturdy that they do fine on their own. Once the seeds set the flower head is very heavy and they bed down. Also, the squirrels will then climb the stalk and the added weight sometimes bends them in half. I like growing several close together so they can support each other. The row nearest the deck will have some support from the deck facing. I’ll keep you posted.

      I leave the seed heads out on the rock wall, but the squirrels finish them long before the birds show up. Interestingly, the birds like to eat bugs off the leaves all season and of course the bees come by to do their thing as well. They are great fun to grow.

      LOL…pot, it’s the kettle. You are so funny. That made me smile.

      They are cute. Really, really cute, clever, interesting. I like all animals, like you, and I know they are well fed so I don’t feel bad covering the seeds. Besides, they’ll get to eat the flower heads in three months time so we all win!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Oh I feel your pain, Cathy. I used one of these to prevent snail invasions. I had to cover the top as well with a scrap of screen so they had zero opportunity to get in.

      Some people have luck surrounding them with coffee grounds. Copper works if they are in a pot or an area you can completely surround.

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    • Yes, I can see that would be tricky. If you create something like this and stake it, it might at least slow them down. How lovely to be spending time in Scotland though. I loved my short time there.

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  4. I’m surprised the screens slow the squirrels down without laying them on the ground. Yes, that little grey munchkin looks guilty of something. Maybe not the seeds you planted but you know he did something to warrant that look. Mouse looks like he’s paying rent being your watch cat. He knows a cushy job when he finds it. I’ll be asking gardening advice soon. It’s overrun by neglect. Hoping to see sunflowers soon. Hugs.

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    • I’ve used a couple of ground stakes to keep them in place and so far it’s working.

      I can’t get enough of those cute little squirrel faces. They always look like they’ve got a lot on their minds. They’re clever and resourceful, aren’t they.

      Oh how I wish I could come spend a day in your new garden. We would have a lot of fun. I actually enjoy pulling weeds, and putting things in order. I find it therapeutic.

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      • I love those destructive little munchkins too. I also wish you could come play in the garden with me. Pulling weeds is meditative for me. The last husband thought I had a vendetta against them. They were saving his life.:) I could spend hours out there and wouldn’t come inside till I could no longer see. The waiting to see if this thing flies is the hard part. They hadn’t repaired the bedroom floor in time for the first appraisal so it must be redone.. Always some little hitch. I hope that’s it. Hugs.M

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        • Oh boy. Yes, always something. I hope that’s it, too and you get the green light soon.

          LOL…a weed vendetta. I’ve done the same thing. Once I get going I don’t want to stop. Fortunately, I love my husband, and just stay outside for the love of it.

          Hugs to you.

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  5. You know, I like to take the mirror image approach and let the creatures do some of the work for me. We had an epic sunflower year once by placing our bird feeders over a bed with some space in it.

    The sloppy little diners spilled more seeds than the local four-legged bandits could possibly eat. Before long, come of those seeds turned into volunteers. With good light and regular water, they grew to pretty massive size.

    Won’t work everywhere, but it was a glorious year for our garden.

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    • What a great story, Vincent. We had a similar experience many years ago, that included a few pumpkins as wall as two, 7-foot tall sunflowers. It was great fun, and actually what launched the planting of future crops.

      Thanks for stopping in to comment.

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  6. I’m wondering if those screens would keep the deer away as well. My Hosta never survive, darn deer! and the bunnies, take their share as well. I’ve tried deer netting but I think the screens might be even better. Great idea!

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    • These just might work. You could start small, planting one plant and then using the cover to see how it worked out. I staked them into the ground to keep them from moving and they’ve stayed put. Let me know if you give it a whirl.

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