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Growing sunflower for seed (at 56N)  RSS feed

 
Gordon Haverland
Posts: 38
Location: Dawson Creek, BC, Canada
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This year is the first year I've planted things expecting results of some kind.

I am NOT looking for answers.  I am looking for comments on what I've observed, so that I can better understand what happens in the future.

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If one regards sunflower as a stand-in for corn, I've been looking at two sisters plots that are 3x3 feet in size.

We had an exceptionally long winter (6 months).  I had decided I needed to start at some point, so it might as well be now.

So, I set up 12 raised bed gardens that were 3x3 feet in size: 9 in a compact area and 3 nearby.  I also put 3 jerusalem artichokes in the matrix.

And it has been a useful experiment.

Two of the non-compact locations suffered a lot of deer predation early on.  Could I have avoided this be urinating near those locations a lot?  Something to try next year.

I typically see summer as drought.  We had an exceptionally wet spring due to the winter being soooo long, but we had almost no precip after that.

In each 3x3 bed, I planted sunflower 6 inches in from each corner.  Multiple seeds, how many depending on how viable I thought the source were.  I did some pruning at times.  A few weeks later, I seeded pole beans at the corners and in the centre.

This is vaguely a two sisters setup, as I planted no squash.  If one regards sunflower as a replacement for corn.

Last week, on a night with a predicted low (at the airport which is 4km away and 40-50m lower in altitude) of 5C, we seen 0.8 recorded at the airport and I observed frost on the grass and on black plastic meant to kill grass/hay for next year in the vicinity.

Over the course of the summer I seen predation on leaves (sunflower and bean), but didn't know why.  Most of the way through the summer I found out I have a very healthy population of slugs on my property.  While nematodes might be a solution near the centre of the universe in Canada (Toronto), it is not posssible here.  So I set out beer traps, and they seem to work reasonably well.

I planted many varieties of sunflower, including one labelled as the original one.

---

At this point, I have two questions:
1. When do I harvest the pole beans?
2. When do I harvest the sunflowers?

I observed frost a week ago on a predicted low of 5C.  I have a predicted low of 0 and 1 on two successive nights this week.

Some of the beans have lost all the leaves they had (due to slugs).  Some have pods with well developed pods, showing all the seeds, and some are in between.  I don't want to eat the beans, I want to seed them next year.    When should I harvest the pods?

The earliest flowering sunflower I have, is I believe an "original sunflower".  It has 3 flower heads on it.  I have seldom seen pollinators on it.  And the back of even the first flowering head has not changed colour (to yellow or brown).

I've got a few more since then, one which appears to be another "original sunflower" (with 4 protoheads and 1 head that has opened).

Some sunflowers seem to attract pollinators and some don't.  Part of the problem could be a flower density issue in late summer.  The local store had "Mums" on sale (which typically bloom late summer).  So, I bought a bunch (yellow) and planted them.  I haven't seen pollinators interested in them, in 1.5 days.

My thinking is that bees remember for quite a while.  If a person introduces something new, and even if a honeybee in a colony does a dance for this new location, it is not taken a face value as  (according to bee knowledge) flowers just don't martialize out of nowhere.

As hinted above, I am looking for comments.

Should I cut off the sunflower heads before this predicted frost and let them sit upside down until dry

Should I do this after this predicted frost (which happens to be an actual frost)?

Should I do some?   Flip a coin, and see what happens?

Am I ignoring something else?
 
Skandi Rogers
Posts: 12
Location: Denmark 57N
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Ok, Well I am also at 57 north but over in Europe so my winter is warmer (but just as long) and summer is not as warm.  I grow both pole beans and sunflowers BUT and there are several buts. I'll start with beans. I have grown runner beans (scarlet emporor) and borlotti beans, however the borlotti do not get to maturity here the summer simply isn't long enough, even with starting the beans inside 3 weeks before last frost (1st June) Runner beans do just not all of them make it, but enough to save for seed or to eat, they are actually really nice beans to eat! Pick the pole beans when the pods turn brown and crinkley. is what one is told, and I'm sure that's fine if you live somewhere warm, but I have found that the seeds manage ok if the pods are just leathery, so long as they have lost their shine and started to wrinkle a bit they manage. I do put my beans in my dehydrator at 30-40 degrees overnight and yes they still germinate!

Sunflowers, well they flower here in late august early september and do not have enough time to dry. I tried picking them just before the first frost and hanging in the barn to dry but they all went moldy, from my experience they are not a viable crop in a short summer, much the same as maize isn't. Oh I have left them out in a frost, and they instantly turn to mush, so do get them in before that.

As to polinators, I don't know, I get a few bees on my sunflowers, but nothing compared to what's on the borage or snowberries.

 
Gordon Haverland
Posts: 38
Location: Dawson Creek, BC, Canada
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I spent a bit more time looking online, and there seemed to be a feeling that any sunflowers that experienced frost should be left to the birds and squirrels.  I suspect those people were growing the sunflowers for human consumption, and not for seed purposes.

I've had one light frost (predicted low was 5C, observed low at 4am at the local airport was 0.8C, I am 150m higher (or so) in elevation  than the airport).  Wednesday-Friday have predicted lows that could lead to local frost, but it may rain as well, so that may mitigate frost.

I had planted something more than 4 varieties of sunflower at 48 locations (4*12).  Of the 19 locations with still viable plants, 7 have open blossoms.

I believe 2 of these locations are "the original sunflower".  I would have to look at my planting map to be sure, but they are multiheaded sunflowers.

One of these multiheaded plants was the first blossom to open, and it did what most sunflowers do.  Upon opening, the plant no longer tracked the sun.  This left the open blossom facing NNW, which may have had something to do with it seeing few bees visit it.  Two additional (and smaller) heads have opened, both facing SSE.  They overlap in space, and the more sunward one has seen more pollinator interest.  The one facing NNW has had more interest from black ants.

The second multiheaded sunflower has one blossom open, and 4 or 5 ones still waiting to open.  It is still tracking the sun.  Which makes me think that this observation that the open blossoms do not track the sun, is a byproduct of how all these larger seeded modern varieties were found.
 
Amit Enventres
Posts: 456
Location: Ohio, USA
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I grew some sunflowers in southern Ohio, I got them in the ground late and they were single flower, large head. The earlier you plant, the better they do, after frost. You might be able to use covers and diatomaceous earth to help with your slugs. Also, I have a theory I'm working on. Check your soil magnesium/salt levels. We get lots of rain and end up with some salt deficiencies which seems to correlate with slug happiness. The heads weren't completely dry when I pulled in the sunflowers, but mostly and then I hung them inside, where we ran the heat and kept an eye on rodent attacks. That said, I found sunflower a nice bread additive, but not a substitute. Sunflower if nutritious but falls into the fat/protein category where as corn is more grain/sugar/fiber category.  If I were you I'd try quinoa. I have had luck growing almost two seasons worth of quinoa in one season in Ohio and it is a grain. If it fails, the leaves are edible. I was also able to do a late crop of sorghum here and dry that inside. It did very well and is about the same thing as corn. If sorghum fails to mature in time, the stems are a nice sugary treat. My grain corn on the other hand, planted late, is just tassling now. Just to give you a perspective on timing.
 
Gordon Haverland
Posts: 38
Location: Dawson Creek, BC, Canada
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Amit Enventres wrote:I grew some sunflowers in southern Ohio, I got them in the ground late and they were single flower, large head. The earlier you plant, the better they do, after frost. You might be able to use covers and diatomaceous earth to help with your slugs. Also, I have a theory I'm working on. Check your soil magnesium/salt levels. We get lots of rain and end up with some salt deficiencies which seems to correlate with slug happiness.


I probably get much less rain than you.  I can dig out my chemistry texts, and see if I can't figure out a test for magnesium.  I did give the sunflowers a little borax in water 3 times this year.  Jerusalem artichoke (relative of sunflower, planted in same area) was nothing but brownspot all year.  I'm not even going to see a flower from any of the 3 jerusalem artichokes.

The heads weren't completely dry when I pulled in the sunflowers, but mostly and then I hung them inside, where we ran the heat and kept an eye on rodent attacks. That said, I found sunflower a nice bread additive, but not a substitute. Sunflower if nutritious but falls into the fat/protein category where as corn is more grain/sugar/fiber category.  If I were you I'd try quinoa. I have had luck growing almost two seasons worth of quinoa in one season in Ohio and it is a grain. If it fails, the leaves are edible. I was also able to do a late crop of sorghum here and dry that inside. It did very well and is about the same thing as corn. If sorghum fails to mature in time, the stems are a nice sugary treat. My grain corn on the other hand, planted late, is just tassling now. Just to give you a perspective on timing.


Half way through the summer, I planted some buckwheat (where the sunflower failed to germinate).  Some of the buckwheat is in flower, and about 6 inch tall.

Sure, I can look at quinoa.
 
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