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what do you do with corn and sunflower stalks?

 
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Any suggestions on what to do with corn stalks and sunflower stalks.  I have always put them on the burn pile.  I would love a better suggestion.  Seems like it would take way to long to compost.
 
steward
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I till corn and sunflower stalks into the ground, right where they grew. Then next year, I plant large seeded things (beans, corn, squash, sunflower, peas) where the corn grew the previous year.

Sunflowers can be allelopathic, so putting their residues on a burn pile seems like a fine strategy.

(Posted with my standard disclaimer that I am not a permaculturalist.)
 
pollinator
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Haven't had much luck with corn yet so I haven't tried it, but could you chop it up and use it as mulch?
 
pollinator
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I find if I keep sunflower stalks dry through the winter they make good tripod bean and pea stakes the following year..
 
pollinator
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I would use them as building materials, trellises, plant stakes, small weaved plant fences, ect.
 
gardener
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Just lay them down where they grew and let the soil biology break them down. If that doesn't fit your gardening style, some sort of compost pile.
Something I thought of that I haven't looked yet to see if someone has the results, is to dig a post hole and fill with old stalks, I was thinking mullein or a big piece of cardboard rolled up. Could be tried with or without some compostables included. Might make a good tree hole later or just a way to stealth compost.  
 
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feed them to my sheep.  Good for parasite control (apparently) and the sheep love them!  
 
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Joseph Lofthouse wrote:I till corn and sunflower stalks into the ground, right where they grew. Then next year, I plant large seeded things (beans, corn, squash, sunflower, peas) where the corn grew the previous year.

Sunflowers can be allelopathic, so putting their residues on a burn pile seems like a fine strategy.

(Posted with my standard disclaimer that I am not a permaculturalist.)



Having no idea what to do with mine last year, they ended up either (1)being played with by the kids, or (2) ripped up by chickens in the early spring when I let them into that garden. Either way, they effectively got broken up. Once broken up, they turned into mulch/compost pretty fast and were planted into like Joseph did. I have a pretty wet fall, winter, and spring, so things tend to rot/compost pretty fast here.

I didn't know sunflowers can be alleopathic. Maybe that's why this years sunflowers did so much better than last years, while the corn did worse...
 
pollinator
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I throw them to our chicken run. Chickens deal with those matters. :D
 
master pollinator
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Kindling for the next biochar burn.
 
master pollinator
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Feed for my sheep...sunflower stalks and corn stalks make excellent feed. I cannot believe that more homesteaders do not grow these crops so they can get more food per acre, and cut down on their livestock feeding costs (buying less hay).
 
pollinator
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Great for rabbits or goats. Lay them in paths or between garden rows as mulch. Burry them as a sort of quick Hugelkultur.

As long as they are in the center of a compost pile, they should break down relatively quickly. Especially if you cut them up.
 
Jen Fulkerson
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Thank you all so much for all the great suggestions.  I don't have rabbits or sheep, but I do have chickens, so I think the coop will do.  I think they will love tearing them to shreds.  I may keep a few sunflower stalks to use as tripods or some kind of craft.  Thanks again I think all of your suggestions are better than the burn pile.  I'm happy to say we have been so much better this year.  At this stage our burn pile isn't even enough to call a pile, and normally by this time we are waiting for a rainy  so we can burn an enormous pile.  So thank you.
 
steward
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I use my sunflower stalks as bean trellises.  I store them under a lean to in the winter and I just use them for one season.  But they seem to get a black moldy layer on them that I don't like to breath when setting up the trellis.
 
pollinator
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I have used them on the border of hugels to keep vines out. I use anything stemmy to make it seem less inviting to the honeysuckle and trumpet creeper. Allelopathic would be a plus! I have been planting lots of comfrey but more hugels than comfrey right now!
 
gardener
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Totally frivolous, but they make very cute seasonal decor, too. And, afterward, you can still use them for the chickens, fire starting, or mulch
 
gardener
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I pile up any woody or stringy stuff (corn stover, sunflower stalks, tomato vines, squash/pumpkin vines, etc) on the south side of my fruit trees, particularly on the south-facing hillside.

This mulch pile slowly breaks down and feed the soil.
It shades the soil on the sunny side of the tree from the hot solar energy that bakes the soil rock-hard.
It creates a bit of a terrace (over time) on the low side of the tree.
It creates a habitat for worms and other biota, particular a place for good insects to over-winter.

Over the years, it all breaks down.  You just have to replenish the pile by stacking new stuff on top every fall.


Best of luck.
 
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I grow Sunchokes, AKA Jerusalem Artichokes, a close relative of Sunflowers. I don't pull them until they're fully dead and dried. They don't compost worth crap but they do make great stakes the following year. I got a small chipper/shredder and put them through as I pull them and scatter the chips over the patches. When I go back through with a sod fork for the rest of the roots the chips get turned under and break down much faster. The stalks feed next year's growth, keep weeds way down and loosen the soil up real nice.
 
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I've tried to compost corn stalks left whole, but they didn't seem to break down over the winter. Once the corn is harvested, I'll cut the stalks into smaller pieces about 3 or 4 inches. Later, once I'm done with the garden, I let the chickens in there for the winter and by planting time the next season.....it's all broke down, fertilized and ready to plant.

As for sunflower stalks, I don't have the strength to cut them and they get too big around for me to handle so last year I tried to save them for bean poles, and had left them leaning against a tree over the winter. By spring they had degraded enough to be almost like paper. Definitely not strong enough to support peas or beans. They ended up in the middle of a berm.

All other left over plant material is left in the garden to keep those chickens entertained and actively 'working it'


 
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I'm just harvesting sunchokes. Their stalks similar, tho not as thick. I feel if i let them down, let alone lay them down, I'll be seeing their regrowth come spring. I am pulling off all the node-like bits, but still i fear. Its spreadabiity seems to come from a mere fragment, and who doesn't leave at least a few behind. I am getting better, more vigilant, this year. ...Now I'm wondering what I should do with these? Shrug, OgreNick
 
gardener
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We have a lot of corn stalks. They go through the chipper then used to mulch the area where the corn was grown. I don't  uproot them, just cut them off at ground level to let the roots do their thing.
 
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Well, if you're feeling crafty, you might try your hand at making flutes from the sunflower stalks.    A good friend of mine has done this and even sold them on his Etsy shop.
 
Blaine Clark
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Nick Dimitri wrote:I'm just harvesting sunchokes.


Nick, I replied just above you. I've got about 150 sq.ft. of Sunchokes and I've had them start up in compost piles, plus they don't compost very well at all as whole stalks. A few years ago I got a small electric chipper/shredder and that helped immensely! No more wandering startups and the chips degrade within a year. I harvest some in the fall, then again in the spring. All the stalks go through the chipper in the fall after they've died and completely dried and they get scattered all over the existing patches, part get turned under in the fall, the rest get turned under in the spring. I use a sod fork to dig them with. By next fall even the ones that weathered on the surface over winter are pretty much gone after being turned under in the spring.
The ones we harvest in the fall are primarily for our use as we're used to the Inulin fiber that causes gas and it's so healthy for the guts. What gas we get is minor. The ones we harvest in the spring are for friends and family, plus this year I'm going to start supplying a downtown mission cafe. Don't want to chance getting anyone all gassed up with no where to go!!! After a long winter freeze here in zone 5, the Inulin converts to fructose and those 'chokes get so sweet it's almost like eating candy!!
We can the majority of ours. My wife and I prefer them over cukes when they're done up as pickles and relishes. We also can a bunch plain and use them like potatoes in soups and stews and occasional side dishes. They're a bit difficult to freeze since they've got so much moisture in them. Shredded like hash browns then really squeezed to get the moisture out lets them freeze better. I sliced and dehydrated some last fall and made flour in a food processor. Not bad! It's like Buckwheat flour, heavy. You have to mix it with other flour or you'll have paper weights and door stops! It does a good job at thickening gravies and stews by itself. I only made a quart last fall, just enough to experiment with. This fall, if I'm able, I'm going to try for a lot more. I tried making a small batch of 'choke kraut a couple years ago. I didn't use enough salt, plus I don't have a cool place outside that won't freeze so I did them inside - too warm, they got musty for me. They're supposed to be fantastic fermented like kraut. Fermenting also breaks the Inulin down.
I've made wine out of flower broth and root broth. The flower wine I like, my wife doesn't, it isn't fruity, very earthy and I found it mixes well with other wines. The root wine was a bit stout, too stout for a drinking wine, but it made a great cooking wine. It adds a nice earthy flavor to dishes.
 
Blaine Clark
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William Bronson wrote:Bunny fodder!


I gave some Sunchokes to folks that raise rabbits so they could start a patch. They feed fresh leaves to their bunnies all summer long. The stalks are a bit tough, but if they're still green, goats love them. It seems everybody loves the fresh sprouts in the summer; rabbits, deer, cattle, horses, goats, sheep and I'm guessing Whistle-pigs (groundhogs!) too from what I've seen. Seems several of those critters love the 'choke roots too, either raw or boiled. Chickens usually peck at the raw 'chokes, but will devour them if boiled.
 
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I always feed mine to my mushroom beds, sometimes i soak them for a day. They won't keep a bed fed for me by themselves but they do help cut down the amount of chips i need to add.
 
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I second feeding them to the rabbits! As more of a side-dish than a staple food.
Our rabbits eat corn, sunchoke, and sunflower stalks and leaves.
Don't leave them where they can get wet. A nice dry spot in the shade will let them dry out. Otherwise they will mildew.
Our rabbits pretty much refuse any roots, including sunchokes, carrots, and beets.
The dried stalks are nice for them to gnaw on in the winter.
 
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Noticing the hollow nature of sunflower stalks, my brother thought this would be an ideal way to make a cigar. He stuffed it with various flammable dried things and smoked it until it burned his mouth. He was about 11.
 
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I would grow mushrooms on them - turn waste into food, why not
 
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Juice the corn stalks for corn sugar it also makes nice corn stalks beer or vinegar. The dryish corn must be picked a bit earlier when the stalks have some green still. The corn may need to be dried more after harvest in some cases.
 
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