Help me plant sunflowers
March 8, 2012 6:45 PM   Subscribe

I'm a gardening n00b and I want to fill my yard with sunflowers, guide me please...

Hi there
I have seen houses that have their front yards full of sunflowers and I think it's pretty neat. I'd like to do this too when the ground thaws out.

Problem is, that I'm a gardening n00b. I know I can till the soil, plant the seeds, water them, pull up dandelions, and ... what else? Is it that simple? Or are there other things I need to do?

Like weed killer? is this appropriate? What about those garden mats (sorry don't know the proper name) that are black & supposedly keep weeds from germinating? What about also putting down cedar chips or something on the ground, is this necessary to keep weeds out?

As you can see I'm a bit lost, any guidance or advice is most welcome.
posted by thermonuclear.jive.turkey to Home & Garden (18 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Sunflowers are just about idiot proof, just pull a little grass, stick a seed or 2 about 1/4 inch into the dirt and water once in a while. Do the same every 18 inches and you have a sunflower garden. You'll need to protect them from snails for the 1st 2-3 weeks after they sprout. After that, the only thing has bothered my sunflowers has been gophers.
posted by buggzzee23 at 6:55 PM on March 8, 2012

Best answer: You could probably use some mulch to keep your weeds down, but really, once those sunflowers are up and racing, nothing much else is going to get a look in. Maybe you could chuck some kind of fertiliser on them from time to time as they grow. Slug and snail pellets for the snails.
posted by thylacinthine at 6:56 PM on March 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Sunflowers are really robust plants and their rapid growth tends to allow them to outcompete weeds (note: the only reason we weed is to prevent the unwanted plant (the weed) from competing for sunlight, water and nutrients with the plant we want to thrive).

If you have soil with a heavy clay content, it would help to dig down a foot or two and amend with some compost mix (get the bag from the hardware store) but really, sunflowers are weeds with very pretty flowers: poke a hole in the dirt in a sunny part of your yard, drop seed in, stand back.

The hard part about sunflowers is picking which varieties to plant, so many to choose from.
posted by jamaro at 6:58 PM on March 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

And there are lots of different sunflowers to mix into your garden.
posted by buggzzee23 at 7:00 PM on March 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

We need pics!
posted by thylacinthine at 7:03 PM on March 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

We grew a bunch with no effort at all. We just pushed the seeds into the ground a couple of inches and watered when we remembered to. They shot up really fast.
posted by elizeh at 7:15 PM on March 8, 2012

If you grow the big ones, don't forget to harvest some seeds to eat.

You can probably look up better but just to give you an idea; dry them in the oven, soak them in brine with some vinegar and or hot sauce for a day or two then dry them in the oven again.

Awesome homemade stuff!

(And yea, I agree with everyone above...sunflowers are like weeds, sun, water and OK soil and they will take right off.
posted by snsranch at 7:18 PM on March 8, 2012

I have a friend that threw down a bunch of seeds in a vacant lot that was ugly and annoying... they sprang up and looked gorgeous by mid-summer!

Now is the time to plant. I agree they are idiot proof! In a micr-climate of high desert, he could only water these guys once per week and they did very well!!
posted by jbenben at 7:22 PM on March 8, 2012

I managed to grow a sunflower successfully in adobe clay. When I was four. Trust me, you'll have no problem whatsoever.
posted by thomas j wise at 7:37 PM on March 8, 2012

Cheapest place to get sunflower seed is in bird seed. You can buy several pounds of black sunflower bird seed for what they charge for a small packet of sunflower seeds at the garden centre.
posted by Mitheral at 7:50 PM on March 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

I would like to caution against squirrels and blue jays. I've tried planting sunflowers two years now and those jerks keep eating the seeds. They like zinnia and sweetpeas too.
posted by fiercekitten at 8:10 PM on March 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

I accidentally grew a whole bunch of sunflowers in my back yard 2 years ago simply by putting out birdseed (for the birds, you know?). No effort on my part *at all*. I didn't even know what they were at first but several of them reached maybe 5 feet tall with no purposeful watering/tilling/etc. Then again, I live in Northern California which is pretty good for that sort of thing weather-wise. Moral of the story: unless you live in Antarctica or something, you should be able to basically throw a handful of seeds into your yard, maybe water once a week or so if you don't get much rain where you are, and poof! Sunflowers.
posted by aecorwin at 9:20 PM on March 8, 2012

Another very hardy plant in the sunflower family - hardy to the point of virtual indestructibility - is jerusalem artichokes. Stems and leaves are very similar to sunflowers, but the flowers are multiple and much smaller. All it takes to start a completely ineradicable patch of tall green lushness is a few tubers covered with a few inches of compost.

We have a patch of these growing outside a west-facing window, and by the time the summer has got hot enough for solar gain through that window to be a nuisance they're shading it beautifully. Ours get watered by a 3/16" hole poked into the drain pipe from our shower and they grow maybe 12 feet tall.
posted by flabdablet at 9:58 PM on March 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

Nthing birds and animals eating the seeds. Anyone got tips for protecting them?
posted by vitabellosi at 3:42 AM on March 9, 2012

Best way I've found to stop animal damage is to plant lots. Yeah, you'll lose some, but you'll still get plenty growing.
posted by scruss at 4:08 AM on March 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

Two years ago I went into a clay-ish weeded strip of land behind my back fence, did not till, started late in the season, dug holes too close together, and planted some seeds. Here was the result. For scale, I am six feet tall. About 1/4 of what I planted didn't make it.

The only thing I did was keep them untangled from some weeds until they got big enough. Ironically, last year I took a lot more care, cleared the soil better, started the seeds inside and planted them as hardy seedlings and due to weather or whatever else, less grew. And of those that did, deer ate most of them before they flowered. So a bit less spectacular, but still got some plants and it looked good enough for a back lot.

The seeds I used was the "Sun Forest" mix from Burpee.
posted by mikepop at 5:24 AM on March 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

The old planting rhyme, "One for the blackbird, one for the crow, one for the ground, and one to grow," applies to corn and sunflowers. I throw a couple handfuls in the general area I want them, and use a dibble to push the seeds into the soil until I get tired of looking for them. That's it.

Also, sunflowers do not like to be transplanted, even as seedlings. Plant them where you want them to grow and stand back.
posted by halfbuckaroo at 3:06 PM on March 9, 2012

Sunflowers are really robust plants and their rapid growth tends to allow them to outcompete weeds (note: the only reason we weed is to prevent the unwanted plant (the weed) from competing for sunlight, water and nutrients with the plant we want to thrive).

Depends on where you live. In San Francisco, our cool, damp summers mean that sunflowers are susceptible to a powdery mold that just out & out kills them. Whiteflys are also very attracted to them and can kill them. Cutworms will come in and chew them up right at the soil line. If they survive the summer and make it to our warmer fall season, they generally will do fine.
posted by echolalia67 at 9:40 AM on March 30, 2012

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