Rise and shine sun­flow­ers fol­low the sun

Manawatu Guardian - - GARDENING WITH AWAPUNI NURSERIES - By HENRI HAM

Sun­flow­ers are pure fun in the gar­den. They’re bright, cheery and bring out the in­ner child in us all. For me, they also re­lease my com­pet­i­tive streak — where I can’t help but check out other peo­ple’s sun­flow­ers and men­tally com­pare them to ones I’m grow­ing.

Af­ter the er­ratic spring weather we’ve been hav­ing lately, De­cem­ber is the per­fect time to start think­ing about plant­ing some sun­flow­ers in your gar­den.

Sun­flow­ers come in all shapes and sizes. Vary­ing in height (from to 60cm to 3m tall), and flow­er­ing in colours from crim­son to orange, yel­low and even stripes. Most sun­flow­ers each pro­duce a sin­gle flower head, although some branch­ing va­ri­eties grow mul­ti­ples. And the largest heads can grow up to 50cm wide.

Sun­flow­ers are he­liotropic, mean­ing they turn their heads through­out the day to gain max­i­mum sun rays on their faces. So fac­tor this in when you’re work­ing out where to plant them in the gar­den. If you place them on the west­ern bor­der to your house, they’ll be fac­ing away from you in the af­ter­noon sun.

When it comes to grow­ing sun­flow­ers, they are pretty easy. They re­quire a shel­tered, well-drained, but only moder­ately, fer­tile soil. How­ever, it’s key that they’re planted in a su­per sunny spot that gets at least six to eight hours of daily sun.

This year Awapuni Nurs­eries has gone for a clas­sic, bright yel­low flow­er­ing, sin­gle stem sun­flower — the Rus­sian gi­ant. It def­i­nitely lives up to its name and can reach up to 3m high.

You can grab some Rus­sian gi­ant sun­flower seedlings from our

Awapuni Nurs­eries on­line shop. We de­liver di­rect to your door and guar­an­tee sat­is­fac­tion. If for any rea­son you’re not en­tirely happy with your or­der we will re­place it. Our reg­u­lar bun­dles have nine seedlings, or the bulk bun­dles come with 25 seedlings in them.

Now work out where to plant them. I per­son­ally love the group im­pact they can make when grown in a bunch to­gether or along a fence line.

Dig holes around 3cm deep and plant your seedlings ap­prox­i­mately 30cm apart. Sun­flow­ers can re­ally suck the nu­tri­ents and wa­ter out of the ground around them, so make sure any nearby an­nu­als are around 30cm away from the sun­flower stem.

Now is also the time to stake them to en­sure they don’t top­ple over later on. You’ll be amazed at how quickly they can shoot up, so it’s im­por­tant to stake early be­fore you risk dam­ag­ing the root sys­tems.

Wa­ter your sun­flow­ers in the morn­ing to avoid root rot overnight. Once es­tab­lished they don’t re­ally need any fer­tiliser, but adding some every few weeks is a good idea if you’re en­ter­ing them in a tallest sun­flower com­pe­ti­tion or just re­ally want to show off.

You can also grow sun­flow­ers in pots. I rec­om­mend at least a 30L pot, as you don’t want the sun­flower to get top heavy and top­ple over. Again, stake it right from when you plant the seedling so you keep the root sys­tems in­tact. Hav­ing them near a fence or wall where you can se­cure them to some­thing else is also rec­om­mended to en­sure their stems don’t break un­der their own weight.

In two to three months your sun­flow­ers should have risen and be shin­ing proud in your gar­den. Later, when the heads be­gin to droop you can har­vest their heads for seeds.

Once har­vested, soak the seeds over night in a lightly salted wa­ter. Then slow roast them for 40 min­utes at 150C. Once cooled, store in an air­tight jar in the fridge for two months or freezer for up to a year. En­joy them added to sal­ads or savoury bak­ing for many months to come. De­li­cious.

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