We’re back in the garden with regular contributor, Megan Wild. You’re going to love these floral giants — sunflowers for your garden!
How to Grow Healthy Sunflowers
Add some wow factor to your garden!
One of the greatest joys of gardening is watching something you planted from a tiny seed grow and reach amazing heights – even towering over you. There’s no better way to get that wow factor in your garden than to plant sunflowers. Some varieties can reach 10 to even 16 feet high! To grow large, healthy sunflowers, though, it pays to follow a few best practices to give them the best chance to thrive.
Choose the Right Location
It should come as no surprise that sunflowers do best in a sunny location. They need at least six to eight hours of direct sunlight per day – the more the better. Sunflowers also need a soil that drains well, so planting them on a slope will often help keep their roots from becoming too waterlogged.
Another advantage of planting sunflowers on a slope is that picking the right plants can help reduce soil erosion and minimize flooding in other parts of your yard. Sunflowers have long taproots that anchor deeply and soak up a lot of excess water, which can help preserve the rest of your landscape.
Plant in Mid-Spring for Best Results
Sunflowers aren’t frost-hardy, so it’s best to wait to plant until all danger of frost has passed in your area. Prepare your soil by adding a low-nitrogen fertilizer and lots of compost. Turn these into the soil with a spade to loosen the planting area and allow roots to flourish. Press sunflower seeds into the prepared soil to about an inch in depth, making sure to plant seeds in rows 6 inches apart. Cover seeds with soil and water well.
If garden pests like birds, chipmunks or squirrels disturb your seeds, cover your planting bed with bird netting or chicken wire to protect them. Water seeds daily until they sprout.
Support Your Sunflowers as They Grow
Once your sunflowers sprout, they don’t need much care unless you are experiencing a drought. An inch of rainfall per week is the right amount, but if you get less, water your sunflowers deeply once per week to make up for the deficit.
When your sunflowers reach a foot in height, it’s time to thin them. For a row of dwarf sunflowers, you should pull out the weaker seedlings and leave the strong plants at a spacing of about one per every foot. For giant sunflowers, thin to one every 30 inches or so. It’s important to create enough room for your sunflowers to reach their full potential, so don’t skip this important step – even if it seems sad to kill half of your seedlings.
As your sunflowers bloom, they will need staking to keep them upright. Sometimes the seed heads get so heavy that the stems bend or break, so use strong bamboo stakes to hold them upright. Simply insert the stake into the ground a few inches from the stem and use garden twine to tie the stem to the stake every 6 inches or so. This will also help your sunflowers if you live in a windy area.
Protect Sunflowers From Predators
Sunflowers are tempting food sources for local garden critters, so you may need to protect them, especially if you are interested in harvesting the seeds for yourself. To do this, you can spray plants with a hot pepper spray or other squirrel deterrent. You’ll need to reapply ever few days, or after a rainfall.
To keep birds away from your sunflower seeds, tie a paper bag over the flower head as the seeds begin to develop. This won’t allow you to enjoy your flowers for their beauty, but it’s usually the only way to keep the local birds from making off with your crop. If you’ve planted a whole bed of sunflowers, you can select just a few to protect and allow the birds to eat the rest while you enjoy the flowers for their decorative features.
Once you get the hang of growing sunflowers, you‘ll never want to be without them. They are a brilliant feature in any garden, and they’re loads of fun for kids to enjoy – especially if they get to snack on the seeds in the autumn. Give these giant beauties a try for a fun garden project this summer.
Visit Megan at her blog, Your Wild Home!
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