Sunflower Time

    • Begin spraying roses now for insect and disease problems. Neem oil is a good product for a less toxic solution.
    • “Topsy Turvy”®Tomato and Pepper Planters are a fun and convenient way to enjoy these popular vegetables hanging right outside your kitchen door.
    • Put up hummingbird feeders this month and enjoy these colorful and entertaining birds.
    • Turn in cover crops now and you will be ready to plant your summer garden in two or three weeks.
    • Plant summer-flowering bulbs now. Glads, dahlias, begonias and lilies will bloom this summer if planted soon.

Enjoy radiant Sunflowers this summer

Sunflowers, with their warm yellows and spicy reds, add a touch of sunshine to any flower bed. With a variety of sunflowers in your garden, you can enjoy their colorful blooms from mid-summer until frost.

The common sunflower is native to North America and grows 6 to 8 feet tall. But there are many varieties that have been developed from it ranging in height from 18-inch-tall dwarfs to 5-foot-tall multi-flowered varieties to the 12-foot giants.

It used to be that “sunflower” meant the Mammoth sunflower. This plant grows 7 to 12 feet tall and each plant produces one flower up to 20 inches across that hangs its heads with the weight of its seeds.

The bountiful crop of edible seeds, high in healthy fats, protein, fiber, minerals, and vitamins, are loved by people, birds and animals. You can begin to harvest sunflower seeds as soon as the center flowers turn brown or the backs of the heads turn yellow.

You can start sunflowers indoors right now, and plant them out when danger of frost has passed. Or they can be seeded directly in the ground next month. They are simple to grow in ordinary garden soil. They grow quickly and are fun for children to watch.

Sunflowers love the sun. The faces of the flowers follow the sun, from east to west, each day. So plant them where you can enjoy their colorful flower heads. Remember that they will grow very tall, so don’t put them where they will shade other sun loving plants. Be prepared to stake them if necessary.

‘Sunspot’ is a dwarf sunflower with a large, 10-inch, nodding heads of seeds on bushes only 2 feet tall. Bright, golden yellow petals surround brown centers which are filled with tasty seeds. ‘Teddy Bear’ makes big, rounded, fluffy, golden yellow sunflowers, 5 inches across, on sturdy 3-foot stems.

Another group of sunflowers make 5- to 6-foot-tall, branching plants. ‘Autumn Beauty’ has 5- to 8-inch flowers in deep yellow, gold, brick-red, burgundy and bicolored flowers. It has multiple flowering branches that bloom over a long period. ‘Evening Sun’ has multicolored blooms in yellow and gold with bands of mahogany and red.

Other similar varieties include such intriguing names as ‘Tiger’s Eye’, ‘Moulin Rouge’, and ‘Velvet Queen’, to name a few of the varieties available on local seed racks. They offer all possible combinations of reds, yellows and browns and make stunning bouquets of 4-6 inch flowers.

Besides a bounty of blooms, the ripening heads of sunflowers draw lively goldfinches, colorful towhees and friendly blue jays as long as the stalks stand. So light up your summer beds with colorful sunflowers.

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