How Sunflowers Can Save the Southern Summer Garden

My daughter came up with something genius: using sunflowers to shade other plants in our gardens from the hell-fire intensity of the sun in the deep south.

Maybe this is already a thing but since I had never heard of it, I’m giving Melon the credit.

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Most crops need some shade in the summer down here but it can be a pain to maintain shade cloth through storms.  Somehow, God made the sunflower tougher than everything else we have tried for large beds.

I didn’t realize just how well it worked until they died and the next crop was only a few inches tall.  Poor planning on my part, surprise, surprise.  

We had peas later into the summer than ever before and the tomatoes who happened to be next door were doing much better when they had more shade.

And they look gorgeous, even from far away.

Melon’s system is simple: plant the outside of each row with sunflowers to attract pollinators and shade the crops in the center (and keep your mom from giving you something else to do.)

They also create nice shade walls around a chicken coop and run.  Then, after you save some seeds for planting, you can feed the heads and remaining seeds to the birds.  (I’m singing Circle of Life in my head right now.)

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Why are these things not everywhere?!

So, you have your mission, southerners.  Plant sunflowers everywhere.  They grow with very little attention.  Just make sure you cover the seeds with half an inch to an inch of soil and water them until they get true leaves a week or two later.  Then, plan better than I did and plant the next round when the flowers are just forming on the last crop.  

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A note: critters like to eat the sprouts.  You may want to protect them until they are about 8 inches tall with a bird net.  While we have started many trays of them for sprouts (for us and our birds), we have never tried transplanting them so we will let you know how that goes in an update to this post.  

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Fun Fact:

Keeping sunflower seeds around is a nod to food security.  They sprout in around 4 days, if kept damp and covered lightly with soil, and the sprouts are extremely good for you.  You don’t need to buy tiny packets of seeds to sprout them.  The large sacks of Black Oil Sunflower Seeds from the local farm store will work great and cost much less.

Chew on This

This is just seriously cool.  32 Maps that will teach you something about the world.  Thank you to Andy for sharing.

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Love from the farm

Happy eating, Katy (and Melon)

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