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Some observations on sunflowers  RSS feed

 
Gordon Haverland
Posts: 34
Location: Dawson Creek, BC, Canada
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I made up twelve 3x3 "raised bed" gardens for sunflowers this year.  They were placed on layers of newspaper on top of old pasture, and filled with peat moss, topsoil and compost (in that order).  Sunflowers were planted 6 inches from the corners and 1 inch from corners and in the center of the 3x3 pole beans were planted.  I think I planted 6 different varieties of sunflower, one (two?) of which were black seed.   Some of the seed was "discount".  Either 1, 2 or 3 seeds were planted per hole.  If multiple plants germinated, they were thinned out at about 6-10 inch tall.  Beans were planted after sunflower germination (they were inoculated).

Early on, there was some predation of sunflower leaves, but I didn't know what (I live at 56North, anything feeding at night I wouldn't have seen as the days are too long).  This was much more of a problem for the beans, and it was only a couple of weeks ago I discovered that the culprit seems to be slugs.  I can't get nematodes active for slugs here, so I am using beer traps.  Seems to be working.

I have one 3x3 by itself on the south side of a sheltered area that is horseshoe shaped (open to east), two sites at the east end of the south leg of the horseshoe and nine sites in the horseshoe.  The two sites at the east end are closest to what one might call a hay pasture.  Those two sites are the only places I believe I have had deer predation of the sunflowers.  Of the 8 planting locations in these two 3x3, I think I got 5 sunflower plants.  At about the 1 foot to 1.5 foot level, all 5 of these sunflowers lost their heads to deer.  Some lost one or more leaves to deer.  One plant lost head and all leaves to deer.

This one plant, about a week ago has activated alternate growth nodes at places in the stalk where the branch of a leaf came out.  All of these decapitated sunflowers are still alive, but are sort of like zombies.

Today, I noticed that one sunflower in the only 3x3 where I got 4 locations with sunflowers, no longer had a head.  I am going to guess wind.  The horseshoe shaped area is susceptible to wind form the east, it is pretty much protected from other directions.  As an experiment, today I came along and cut all the leaves off (just leaving the "branch" sticking out of the stalk) to see if this prompts the plant to activate other growth nodes (probably too late to mature at this point).  I watered all my zombies today (I don't usually water the sunflowers - I also have Jerusalem artichokes in this location and they seem to need water occasionally).  Tonight I went out to check my zombies, and I noticed that this last decapitated sunflower which I deleaved today, is still tracking the sun.  About the top 4 inches of the stalk is pivoting to track the sun.

At this time, one of my sunflowers is in bloom.  I suspect it is an "original" sunflower, as it has another head forming off the stalk as well.  The tallest sunflower I have, is about 4 feet tall.  Some of these varieties are expected to get to 14 feet, so obviously this poor soil (mostly peat moss) is not providing much.  I do think the sunflowers have penetrated the newspaper, but the pasture is on heavy clay.

I have given the sunflowers some water this year (3 times), where I have one teaspoon of borax per gallon of water.

Perhaps this is of interest/use to others.

I kept getting an error about abbreviations.  I used the capital letter which comes after "tee", and I've replaced that with horseshoe above.  Maybe that works?
 
Gordon Haverland
Posts: 34
Location: Dawson Creek, BC, Canada
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Hmm, talking to myself again.  Seems normal for autism.

The zombie sunflower I de-leaved  is still tracking the sun.  There is an error, and I will assume this is because the measurement is distributed, and because part of the measurement is in the now missing head, the error exists.

I do have a question for those who have grown sunflowers with pole beans.  Does the pole beans wrapping around the sunflower stalk restrict the sunflower?

 
stephen lowe
Posts: 39
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I have noticed that some of the sunflowers that got pole beans on them that were vigorous got slightly pulled off plum but otherwise they don't seem to do much.
 
Stacy Witscher
Posts: 70
Location: SF Bay Area
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Rats will eat the heads off sunflowers. I have no idea why it's still tracking the sun though, maybe it's like phantom limb syndrome, the plant doesn't know that it's gone.
 
John Weiland
Posts: 921
Location: RRV of da Nort
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Stacy Witscher wrote:....I have no idea why it's still tracking the sun though, maybe it's like phantom limb syndrome, the plant doesn't know that it's gone.


"....heliotropism (sun tracking), Harmer said, involves more than the sunflowers’ ability to detect where the sun is.
Part of the behaviour involves a 24-hour “internal clock,” also called a circadian cycle, which also explains the plants’ ability to “reset” back towards the east overnight in the absence of any sunlight.
"The plant anticipates the timing and the direction of dawn, and to me that looks like a reason to have a connection between the clock and the growth pathway," Harmer wrote in the study. "It's the first example of a plant's clock modulating growth in a natural environment, and having real repercussions for the plant.” -- http://www.ctvnews.ca/sci-tech/sunflowers-use-internal-clock-to-track-the-sun-study-1.3015991
 
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