- They have beautiful flowers.
- Sunflowers grow rapidly and reach a magnificent height.
- They offer food for people and wildlife.
- They blossom from summer to fall.
- You start sunflowers from seed, so they’re cheap.
- They’re easy to grow.
Sunflower tip #1: Protect sunflower seeds from wildlife.
Many people enjoy watching squirrels tumble over the huge sunflower heads to get at the seeds, but other people want to eat the seeds themselves.
I fall into the second category. Unfortunately, the squirrels and birds beat me to the harvest every time. The problem is that the animals are happy to eat the seeds just as the florets are beginning to fall off, and the seeds aren’t ripe enough for me yet. In the photo above right, you can see the florets still attached to the seeds.
I used some tulle I had on hand, which you can see in the photo at left. It’s delicate and got ripped (or was torn open by the squirrels), though I did salvage some seeds before the squirrels ate everything.
What I’m trying now is cheesecloth. I covered the cheesecloth with a double layer of tulle. I topped it all with a paper bag. (I read that you may have to replace the bag if it rains.) I’m sure a squirrel can chew or claw through any of these layers, but if I slow down the squirrels enough, perhaps they’ll lose interest.
The idea is not only to keep the animals out, but to catch any seeds that might loosen and fall as they ripen. Using only the tulle, the animals got in, but the netting remained in place and did catch many seeds.
To secure the netting and bag, I reused twist ties from bread bags, connecting several twist ties together to make one long twist tie.
Plant some sunflower seeds, wait a week, then plant another batch. If you plant several batches, you’ll have flowers from summer to fall.
Several of my sunflowers are done, but several more have almost-ripe seeds, and a final batch is just going to seed.
Sunflower tip #3: Protect sunflower seedlings.
I have a problem with rabbits in my yard. They like to chomp down everything in the spring, and I’ve lost young sunflower plants to them in the past.
This year I didn’t lose a single sunflower seedling because I protected the seedlings with tomato cages laced with yarn. A tomato cage isn’t enough to discourage a rabbit, but the yarn made it difficult for the rabbit to get at the tender plant.
I simply tied the end of the yarn to the tomato cage and looped the yarn over and under the horizontal circles of the cage. Then I wove the yarn sideways inbetween the vertical strands of yarn, tying it here and there to keep it in place.
For good measure, I sprayed the yarn with rabbit repellent, alternating between a commercial spray and a homemade spray made from hot peppers.
I left this cage in place, but you can remove the cage when you think the stem is thick enough and woody enough to be unappealing to rabbits.
Fun bonus: See more great photos of sunflowers at Garden Walk, Garden Talk.
Photos in this article by Connie Oswald Stofko.