The Sunflower Verdict

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Thinking about this year’s garden rotation this morning and I have sunflowers on my mind.

Since the plan is to have far fewer gardens in the rotation this year, we’re not going to have enough space for everything we’ve planted in the past. So what about sunflowers? Do they get the ax?

We grow a large garden of them every year and, truth be told, they don’t do much for the farm economically. We sell a few of them. They feed the pollinators and the chickens. They’re a good biomass summer cover crop. But they’re not making much of a contribution economically. So should we replace them with something that might have more marketing potential and still be pollinator-friendly?

Nah. They’re staying. When I weigh all the pro’s and con’s, the pro that carries the day for the sunflowers is simply that we like looking at them. Whenever I see the sunflowers I get the sensation that the garden is smiling at me. What’s that worth? Enough to keep them.

We’re going to increase significantly the  size of our onions garden. It seems we never have enough of those. And as soon as they’re harvested in July, we’ll follow them with sunflowers. A cheerful image on a cold February morning.

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45 comments on “The Sunflower Verdict

  1. Sunflowers are so beautiful and they give of themselves in so many ways to nature.. Our Eyes light up when we see them, I am sure the BEES just LOVE them..
    We do not grow many.. but we do save seeds for the birds 🙂 out of them..
    Your photos Amazing Bill .. 🙂

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  2. So happy you decided to keep them. I couldn’t imagine my garden without–it draws in hundreds of finches and other birds…..the bees adore them, and come spring, I appreciate those massive stalks ground up and put on top of the beds as a water conserving, soil enriching mulch.

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  3. thesnowwoman says:

    Thank you for the beautiful bright pictures on this cold snowy morning. I am glad you are keeping the sunflowers, they add light and beauty that alone is contribution. Could you sell some of the seed heads at the market in the late fall for people to hang to feed the birds? Maybe leave a little stem with a biodegradable string attached so it can be hung in a tree. “The White Flint Farm all natural bird feeder”. You wouldn’t make much but it would be a little something and the birds would love it.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Dani says:

    Why not grow beans together with the sunflowers so that they can trail their way up the sunflower stems. Two crops but in the same space 😉

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    • Bill says:

      We haven’t had any success with that, but I do sometimes mix in climbing peas with sunflowers seeds for a cover crop. We’ve found that it’s best to grow the beans separately and they have a spot in our new rotation plan.

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  5. shoreacres says:

    It’s not just the birds and the bees who love the sunflowers. You can’t believe the number of insects I’ve found feeding on them, too — both pollen and nectar. They’re so important. I’m really happy you’re keeping them. Besides, who doesn’t like to smile back at a field of sunflowers in the morning?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bill says:

      Yes, you’re right. They attract an amazing variety of pollinators and insects–more than anything else we grow. The bumble bees especially like them. I posted a picture once that showed how many different species of bees/bugs were on a single head. Fascinating. But the ultimate bottom line for me is that I just like looking at them. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Sunflowers are my all time favorite flower! I’ve always grown them and shared that love for them with my daughter. When she got her first house she was so happy to be able to plant her very own sunflower garden. One of her neighbors complained that they were trashy weeds and devalued the neighborhood. So my daughter planted more the following summer 🙂 Later that year another neighbor came over and thanked her for planting the sunflowers as every morning she was reminded of grandmother. My daughter shared seeds and the next summer almost everyone on the block had sunflowers. I think we can all figure out who didn’t 🙂

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  7. Farmgirl says:

    Ah, sunflowers. The backbone of our gardens. In Native American gardens you would always find sunflowers. They are as important as corn, for they attract the sun. I will follow old wisdom any day! Glad you are keeping those beauties.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Melonie K. says:

    HOORAY! When I first started reading this post I was worried you were going to say they were getting the ax. I’m right with everyone else here – love, love, love sunflowers and all the things they do for the garden and our souls. So glad they are staying!

    We planted some in our little flower bed at the front of our house two summers back – a whole mix of them so some would be sky high and others knee high. The kids and I had a grand time measuring them as they grew – who would they outgrow next? We all celebrated when the tallest ones outpaced a friend who was 6’4″ and then kept going! They were up over our gutter line when a wind storm knocked them down. I saw a lot of people slow down as they drove past the next few days; pretty certain we weren’t the only ones enjoying them and disappointed by their early demise.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bill says:

      We just save one or two or the large heads every year and that’s more than enough to plant a large garden of them. It’s interesting to me that some will grow very tall with huge heads, and others will be much smaller. Some will have a single head and others will have multiples. The comments have me excited about this years crop!

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  9. Good choice Bill!
    : )
    : ) : )
    : ) : ) : )

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  10. I used to pass a field of sunflowers on my drive to work, and it made me smile every time. They didn’t plant it last year, and I wondered why. My own attempts have been eaten by the deer at about 6 inches.
    And we ran out of onions this week… 😦 I don’t think I could ever plant enough…

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    • avwalters says:

      I knew it! Damn deer. I’ll have to move my fantasy sunflowers back in the the relative shelter of the fenced garden.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Bill says:

      We have to fence the deer out until the plants are a little bigger than that. They don’t seem to bother the mature plants. This year will be a challenge since I won’t be fencing the garden we’re going to plant them in. The last few years it’s been nearly impossible for us to grow cover crops due to deer damage. My plan is to sow the newly retired gardens with deer trap crops. We’ll see what happens…

      As for onions, we’re out too. The plan is to greatly increase the amount this year (i.e. this fall for overwintering).

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  11. On behalf of the Sunflower State, I thank you! Save the sunflowers. I take photos of mine every year. They are just so happy to see.

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  12. avwalters says:

    Okay, I’m sold. I looked carefully at the pictures and did not see a deer fence. Could it be? Could I grow sunflowers out of the garden–unprotected? Oh, but then, there are bunnies. Maybe in a couple of rows on the north side of the garden enclosure. I love to look at them, and would even try doing some roasted sunflower butter (which I use in lieu of peanut butter.) How to get them out of the shells, though?

    And we’re going all in on onions this year, too. After all, just about everything I could starts out with an onion.

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    • Bill says:

      Sorry but deer do eat them when they’re little. We’ve never had any trouble with them bothering the grown-up flowers so I had taken the fence down by the time I took these pictures.

      Same here with onions. We’re going to ramp our planting up significantly.

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  13. No, no, no don’t get rid of the sunflowers. They are beautiful; they are visited by lots of pollinators, and they produced a plethora of seeds for the birds! What would the summer be with out the bright yellow sunflowers!!! 🙂 ❤

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  14. Scott says:

    Do you ever harvest the seeds for roasting? My favorite snack while working… A cheek full of sunflower seeds in shell.

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  15. Leigh says:

    I grow sunflowers too just because I love them. I read that whole heads (with seeds) can be chopped and fed to goats, and I’ve always wanted to do that. But we never get any sunflower seeds because the wild birds scarf them down before they’re even mature enough to harvest. So I feed the leaves to the goats and enjoy the cheerful sunflower yellow.

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    • Bill says:

      Sunflower seeds are great snacks for goats. They love them. And the seeds are excellent bait for mousetraps too. I’ve never thought of feeding the leaves to goats. Will have to give that a try…

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  16. Ed says:

    I like sunflowers but have never been able to grow them. They grow just fine but the farmers up here will just about lynch a person for growing sunflowers. They spread very prolifically in bird poop into surrounding fields and will break the teeth off a cycle bar in a combine grain head so it forces farmers to pay someone to walk the soybean fields and chop all the sunflowers down. We had a neighbor that raised some in their garden and for three years afterward, I had to walk my father’s neighboring 80 acres field to remove the sunflower “deposits”.

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  17. NebraskaDave says:

    Bill, wow, looks like there’s a lot of folks out there that are Sunflower lovers. The last couple years the groundhog has eaten mine. They get to about six or eight inches high and then just gone clear down to the ground. Apparently, Virginia deer don’t like sunflowers. I’ll probably try again this year inside the garden fence. Old Nebraska Phil (cousin to Punxsutawney Phil) hasn’t breached the garden fence yet. Oh, by the way Nebraska Phil saw his shadow like his cousin and so six more weeks of Winter. Today will be 52 degrees with 40s all week and another 50 degree day on Friday. If this is Winter, I’m wondering what summer will be like.

    Have a great sunflower planning day.

    Nebraska Dave
    Urban Farmer
    dbentz24@gmail.com

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    • Bill says:

      Oh yeah, Virginia deer like them just fine. But in my experience they’ve only eaten the babies. Still, they will mow them down if they get a chance.

      It was 70 here today and forecast is for two more days like that. Feels like spring outside. We’ve only had one day all year when the temps stayed below freezing for 24 hours. Like you it makes me wonder what summer is going to be like.

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  18. Annie says:

    Your field looks like a van Gogh painting! I don’t plant seeds but allow those fallen seeds beneath the sunflower seed feeders to grow and blossom…. and eventually feed the birds.

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  19. Joanna says:

    I love sunflowers too and I am going to make sure we have them growing here at our place. Your right, sometimes there is no other reason than because!

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  20. Candace says:

    It’s hard to look at a sunflower and not feel happy.

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