Sassy Sue wows the bark park visitors with her catching and retrieving.

Sunday, February 12, 2012


By Norma Boeckler

Mammoth sunflowers are also called Russian and striped. These make great eating for humans after roasting in the oven, but birds and squirrels like them raw. They are one of the most nutritious products of the garden.

Most people use black oil sunflowers for bird food. The seeds can be planted, too, since they are least expensive in big bags.

I used to buy mammoth sunflower seeds in large packages from Harris Seeds. Larger packages are hard to resist.

This seed disk is not unusual. In New Ulm  I left the stalks up all winter so the birds could perch on them while winter foraging. They like to be just above the ground to look for food. The plant slowly rots into the soil. The decay feeds the soil creatures, especially earthworms, enriching and loosening the soil.

Flowers and Fibonacci Numbers
Long before the spirograph drawing toy, God created the same patterns in sunflower seed rows. The topic of Finonacci numbers is fascinating by itself.

This plant is only six feet tall but the seed disk is gigantic. The sunflower is a compound bloom, so each flower-let needs pollinating. The bees enjoy helping out, so there is quite a show to watch. The plant itself hosts plenty of visitors, so birds may land to feast on bugs chewing the leaves or hiding in the shade.

Sunflowers are often used as a temporary wall, an inexpensive way to provide privacy or shade. Unlike bamboo, sunflowers will not spread and occupy the entire lawn. Children like to hide in a fortress created with four walls of sunflowers.

Biggest sunflower disk contest:

Children like to see who can grow the biggest sunflower. Each plant needs plenty of space around it and as much sun as possible.

For extra growth, dig a hole first and fill it with compost, manure, or organic material. Put the best soil on top and plant the seed there. Once the plant begins, use dead grass, leaves, or newspaper to create mulch, which will hold in moisture, shade the root zone, and feed the soil creatures. Earthworms love newspaper roofs over their heads.

Sunflowers need plenty of water. They are as needy as corn and pumpkins. Their leaves will droop when they need more moisture. Water is the way they take up minerals from the soil, so that will give them more growth and bigger disks. Solar energy draws the moisture out while feeding the plant. Photosynthesis is a wonder we take for granted each day.

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