Monday, April 20, 2020

Sunflower Growing in Ottawa

Our  journey with Sunflowers (Russian Mammoth)

Last year 2019,  has been a success with our sunflowers, it was taller than 6 feet and the flowerheads were massive. It was bigger than my head. It was a hit at the Fall Bazar at Kanata Research Park.

Karlina was very excited about it when we bought the seed packet at the store, it  contains 20 seeds, the basic seeds you find in grocery store seed rack.

After Easter, we did the usual test- we have a 4 inch pot at home, put some soil, water it, and it germinated. For some reason, we bring it out too early(first-second week of may) without hardening off, so the plant died. If you are curious about hardening off:

Hardening off is the process of slowly acclimating young plants or seedlings to a new environment. In other words, hardening off is a way for gardeners to gradually condition their plants to the comparatively harsh conditions of the outdoors.

Well,  gradually means day 1: bring your seedlings out - shady area 2 hours
day 2: seedlings out 4 hours - the 2nd two hours in part shade/part sun
day 3: repeat day 2
day 4: plant your seedlings in - but put kind of shade over it, I usually put stick with umbrella over it
day 5: seedlings you are on your own, but still put umbrella on highest heat at noon, then taper it off in the afternoon
day 6: observe your plant if its thriving, if not, still use umbrella.
day 7: plant should be A-ok

But, I don't know what day it was, we just planted her, and she bake crispy in the garden sun.
So, test #1 is a dud.

Test #2. So, well, we have more seeds. We direct sow another batch, only to find the squirrels happily munching the seedlings.

Test #3. The next, it was Victoria Day Weekend, and we were installing our vegetables and herbs. I took about 15 seeds and direct sow in the garden. And this was the successful batch which the seeds were collected.

Success Tip: Water enough to soak the sunflower - about 1 cup per 3 seeds. Too much watering will rot the seeds.

You see, seeds are smart when sown outdoors. If these seeds break open in the cold night, warm days, it will acclimate themselves with the environment and just grow slow. It did grow slow, and I was not observing it very well, until it towers over me. And it was massive. I look for the packets at home and I realize that this was the Russian Mammoth. It was suppose to be 12" across, and it delivers, bigger than a dinner plate.
May 6, 2019 - first batch of seeds tried indoors and tried outdoors - failed and died.
May 24, 2019 - Direct seeding into my garden beds
August - the flower starts to develop
September - the sunflowers were food for the bees, and the garden is buzzing
September 22 - the head was fully mature and we took her home.

I save the seeds, share to fellow farmers, and hopefully continue the sunflower journey.
I hope you will have stories and pictures with your Russian Mammoth, because our plant tower over Sweet William and he is about 6 foot 4 inches. 

Around September, The sunflower head continues to grow, even without staking. 

Around September: the 3 big giant sunflower heads took centerstage in our garden. 




and sunflower went home with us


Around September 22, we decided to bring her home. The 3 heads were all bigger than Kierens head. 
We compared the size to my head, and also bigger than the dinner plate. 


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