For the Love of Sunflowers

sunflower bud

I have grown to love and enjoy Sunflowers for their beauty and for how beneficial they are for our Bees.  Many varieties will grow to an amazing height of 8 – 10 feet tall and I avoided growing them most of my gardening years just for this fact.  They intimidated me and I thought they would be tall and lanky and of little use.

When we moved to our property here, I became interested in growing Sunflowers for their seed.  I did some research and found two varieties which would produce a nice seed for snacking on … the Mongolian Giant and Mammoth Grey Striped.  I purchased both types, planted away and that year the drought hit us hard, so needless to say my seed harvest was minimal.  I held on to some saved seed though.  The following year all my efforts were concentrated on managing the Farmers’ Market of which I became the Market Master.  We also acquired the hoop house and although I planted several different areas of Sunflowers, I wasn’t really paying attention to the beautiful flower until, I noticed…

bee with pollen on sunflower

the Bees on the Sunflowers!!

As I mentioned earlier, the drought hit hard here and this was also the year we first acquired our bees.  My hives did survive and I began to take notice of what flowers were in bloom at what time of the year.  I wondered what my bees were able to find and bring home to the hive.  I did notice bees on the clover and dandelions and the flowers here and there.  I began to take photos and watch with great interest as the Bees flew from one flower to another.  I realized I needed to plant many more flowers particularly Sunflowers since they produce two very important and essential ingredients for the survival of our Bees…nectar and pollen.  The nectar gathered by the bees is used to make honey and the pollen used to feed the developing larvae in the hive.  Sunflowers are a double power house for the Bees!

american goldfinch

Birds also enjoy the seed harvest from the Sunflowers as you can see this American Goldfinch dining on the seeds.  The petals have fallen off and now the seeds will begin to dry in the head, unless they are eaten by some hungry birds!  A method I have found successful for saving the seed is to take a brown lunch bag and pull it up around the seed head and tie with string.  Of course, you should leave some for the birds to munch on as well.

sunflower to the sky

DSCN0791

Grow 1 …. for the Bees!

Or Grow 10, 20 or 30 and watch them sway in the wind!  If you receive heavy winds in your area, you may want to plant along something to brace them when the winds whip up such as a fence or the side of a shed.  The root system is shallow and the weight of the towering stalk and flower will pull the roots out and the stem will topple over during severe storms.

 Make sure to capture some beautiful photos as the Sunflower goes through the growing stages and hopefully you will also capture fantastic photos of the Bees and Birds enjoying a feast!

HomeGrown Pumpkin Pie for the Soul

pumpkins

Food for the Soul is the Daily Prompt and I have to admit this Pumpkin Pie recipe speaks right from my heart and soul!  When I first discovered the Pumpkin Pie pumpkin I was quite excited and knew I had to grow these in my garden.  This variety of pumpkin is smaller than the one most carve for Halloween decorations.  Although the pumpkin is smaller there is plenty to make 2 pies and even some additional little treats like pancakes, breads, etc. If you plan on growing these in your own garden, note that the vines will still spread out and take up a lot of space so make sure you have plenty of room.
ppie collage

The procedure for cooking the pumpkin is fairly simple.  Cut in half, scoop out the seeds and either save for planting (there will be plenty to share with your friends and the Bees absolutely love the pumpkin flowers for pollen) or roast up the seeds for eating.  Place the halves down in a cookie sheet, cover with foil and once in the oven add about 1/2″ water to the pan to steam.    Check on the water level half way through cooking to make sure it has not all evaporated.  This cooking/steaming usually takes about 45 minutes.

Remove the pumpkin and let cool completely.  Scoop out the inside and using a hand blender puree the pumpkin until there are no lumps remaining.  Next you combine all the ingredients and pour into an unbaked pie crust.  This recipe makes 1 pie.

Pumpkin Pie Recipe
1 unbaked 8-inch pie shell
1 cup fresh pumpkin
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ginger
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/8 tsp. cloves
1 cup evaporated milk
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg, slightly beaten
Blend pumpkin and spices and mix well.  Stir in remaining ingredients and pour into pie shell.  Bake at 400 degrees for an hour.  Filling may be soft but will set on cooling.
pumpkin pie
  • Grow Some Pumpkins
  • Feed the Bees
  • Bake a Pie
  • Save the Seeds

Food for the Soul for sure!!

Previously posted at Growing Phases Farm

Beauty in the Hoop House

sun on hoophouse

This morning as the sun appeared it sent a gaze right on over to the hoop house as if checking to make sure all was well.  It appears it was knocking on the door and asking to come in!  It was still too early to open the door … another hour or so to go.  Our first year with our new hoop house and we are learning each and every day.  All summer long we had a shade cloth over the entire house and it helped greatly.  Now during early Fall, if the sun shines on the hoop house it will warm up to 90-100 degrees in no time.  Opening the door and watering the plants keeps them alive.  If you have a hoop house and are growing inside there is not one day you can ignore it.  You have to check and maintain what is growing inside every single day.

microgreens in hoophouse

We have raised beds along the sides of the inner hoop house along with raised tables which are so very convenient and easy on the back.  Right now in early November we have a variety of micro greens growing in the beds.  Arugula, mizuna, kale and spinach … it seems the little lettuces are not doing so well.  They could be just a little too fragile for the ups and downs in the temperatures right now.  The raised tables are closer to the top or roof (basically higher up than the raised beds on the ground) and the plants don’t take the heat as well there.

The  lower bed here has Red Russian Kale, radish and arugula growing.  They are lower and seem to thrive a bit better in the cooler atmosphere.  These tiny greens are planted very close together, but since I eat them at the micro stage, they don’t become overcrowded.

kale radish arugulaThe mizuna below has a peppery cabbage flavor and appears feathery.  It did well but seems like it may be dying down a bit.  Another factor that has to be monitored is the humidity … if these tiny greens receive too much moisture; they die and rather quickly.  So maybe the mizuna is not dealing with the humidity well??

mizunaI am planning a huge micro green salad for Thanksgiving dinner and also sending the guests home with packages to enjoy afterwards.  Since we will be celebrating with our guests in 2 weeks, I think I will have a wonderful harvest.  I need to sit and plan what I will plant next and I wonder if it will make it into the colder months that are ahead.  January and February will probably be the coldest months so I have to figure what will work if anything.  Spinach for sure ….. what else?  Kale possibly …..

collage microgreens

baby snake collageThis teeny, tiny baby snake was out and about today.  The temperature was in the high 60s but I was surprised to see it with all the frosts and chilly weather we have had.  It had no idea who or what I was!!  I made sure the chickens didn’t see it as it scooted off to safety.