Gourmet Gardener: Sowing sunflowers

Our Gourmet Gardener, Tara Kate Linnane, is this week trying to ensure some sun in all our lives in the months to come...

We all need a bit of cheer in our lives and what better way to get it visually than through watching glorious sunflowers grow tall and shine during the summer. In order to set that scene, some sunflower seeds can be sown now.

Packets of sunflower seeds are widely available and the varieties are endless. Typically, when you think of a sunflower, you imagine the tall, majestic yellow giants that gaze over you as they follow the sun around for the day. Sunflowers, however, can also be quite dainty and can have burnt orange pigments right through to deep burgundy velvet petals.

Growing a selection together can create a stunning ensemble.

Sunflowers are easy to grow from seed this month. They can be sown indoors in individual pots, or you can sow them directly into the ground. I would suggest waiting a few weeks before sowing directly outdoors, just in case jack frost makes another hefty appearance. Another note to take when sowing directly is to keep an eye out for slugs or snails as the small plants begin to emerge. A tip (disclaimer – this doesn’t always work!) is to crush some egg shells and place them around the base of each plant.

If sown indoors they will respond quickly to the cosy conditions but you will have to take care not to shock them once they go outside, so perhaps wait until May to plant them into their final positions in the garden. Aim for a sunny spot in the garden, and if growing the taller varieties, remember they will need to be staked to prevent a disheartening stem snap in the wind.

Growing sunflowers, as I have mentioned before, is a really great way of getting children interested and involved in gardening. The seeds are large enough to handle for little kids and watching the plants growing into giants can be magical.

If growing with kids, try to plant a few spares to avoid any disappointment!

Helianthus annuus (which is the scientific name for the common sunflower), are grown as annuals, meaning the will flower year one. Once they have finished flowering you can harvest the seeds or leave them out for the birds to eat. I tend to leave some heads for the birds, take some for toasting, and finally keep a handful for sowing the following year.

If you decide to save seeds to re-plant, store them in an airtight container in a cool, dry place until you are ready to plant. Label the container with the variety and the date you harvested if you are extremely organised!

Sunflowers bring wonderful sunny vibes into our gardens no matter the weather, so planting a few to enjoy this summer will be worth the wait.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

• Tara Kate Linnane is passionate about sustainability and growing all things edible. Together with her husband Barry, she has embarked on a journey of designing edible spaces and getting others started on their gardening adventures. Follow their journey on Instagram @twopeas_inapolytunnel or visit thefoodscapedesignco.com to make contact for information.

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