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

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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!