Sunflowers as a structural item on the plot, more than just pretty flowers ?

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Sunflowers as a structural item on the plot, more than just pretty flowers ?

Postby no_akira » Tue Jan 09, 2018 12:34 am

If God had asked an Architect to come up with a plant, the winning designer would have been a sunflower...

In my Native American gardening book from 1880 (Hidatsas from Missouri) the very first plant that they sow in the 1st week of April is 'Sunflowers'. I've always thought this strange.

Imagine If I had an early variety of SF that I planted indoors in big pots in m.Feb and then plant out post-last-frost l.April. Along the centre axis of my mounded onion bed, i plant x4 large pot SF. During these early wetter months they would act as moisture pumps reducing the soggy bottomness. Then come may (flowers appear) I lop the head off and strip 60% of the leaves to reduce transpiration and sow beans at there bases.

So Sunflowers can act as Moisture pumps for soggy onion beds and then bean canes...maybe ;)8)
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Re: Sunflowers as a structural item on the plot, more than just pretty flowers ?

Postby oldherbaceous » Tue Jan 09, 2018 11:35 am

Good morning no-akira, a very warm welcome to the forum... :)
I like the thinking on the Sunflowers, you would just have to make sure they get plenty of light if sown this early, as they will get very leggy if not....
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Re: Sunflowers as a structural item on the plot, more than just pretty flowers ?

Postby no_akira » Tue Jan 09, 2018 2:34 pm

Cheers for welcome "oldherbaceaous"

I only just discovered the "Kitchen Garden" magazine the other day and felt its outlook of all the gardening magazines more closely suited my planting style
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Re: Sunflowers as a structural item on the plot, more than just pretty flowers ?

Postby Monika » Tue Jan 09, 2018 7:42 pm

If you really mean that, no-akira, you would still have to provide stakes for your beans because sunflowers have a surprisingly small and shallow root system and would surely topple over in any breeze with the weight of the beans on them! It sounds attractive but hardly practical .....
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Re: Sunflowers as a structural item on the plot, more than just pretty flowers ?

Postby Westi » Tue Jan 09, 2018 9:23 pm

Welcome no-akira!

If you've got the room give it a go - with some canes supports for the sunflowers as a back up. The native Americans were pretty handy but although times change & likely the sunflower varieties it might be doable with current props to help. Maybe cross research to find older varieties of sunflower & try to source some seed for another try later? Just a thought mind!
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Re: Sunflowers as a structural item on the plot, more than just pretty flowers ?

Postby no_akira » Tue Jan 09, 2018 11:23 pm

Hello Westi, I was thinking along the same lines...

Not sure about 'shallow roots' Monika, If they are grown in a deep loose bed mine soon form a football sized root ball by the end of the growing season ?

Most modern varieties are about Flower shape. However I need a fast strong grower with rigid strong stems and small (shrunken head) sized flowers and a 6' foot height.
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Re: Sunflowers as a structural item on the plot, more than just pretty flowers ?

Postby Westi » Wed Jan 10, 2018 9:21 pm

Oh! That mention of your deep loose bed is going to be a challenge, & even a football sized root ball could move in that with a bit of a blow. I don't know much about sunflowers (read nothing), but are they one of those plants you can put in deeper & they will root off the stem?
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Re: Sunflowers as a structural item on the plot, more than just pretty flowers ?

Postby Monika » Thu Jan 11, 2018 6:17 pm

no_akira, even a very tall sunflower doesn't produce a rootball anything like football size. I am always surprised when clearing our sunflowers at the end of the season that, once I have cut the stems down to about a foot high, I can just pull the plant up. How it can take up all the nutrients needed for the huge plant and flower with such few roots, I do not know.

Westi, I don't think the deep planting like tomatoes etc would work, but I stand corrected.

A bit off the query: we have just put our last year's sunflower heads on the compost heap because all the seeds had been eaten by the birds. We cut them off about October and tie them to the bean frame for the birds to enjoy.
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