Plants and Problem-Solving – Sunflowers in Bloom

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Every year I attempt to grow sunflowers. Quite often, the animals that live in my yard will dig up the seeds before they even sprout. I’ve stopped this natural tendency of the critters by sprinkling chili powder on top of the soil that covers the seeds. Even so, if they sprout, the tender green shoots are a delicacy to chipmunks, squirrels and rabbits, and when I’ve checked the progress of the sunflowers I find them nipped away and ruined.

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This year I’ve had a bit more success. The sunflower in the photograph is growing outside my kitchen window. My husband measured it and the stalk was well over eleven feet. The plant is still growing and now has two blooms and many buds. So far, no adventurous squirrel has climbed to the top to bite away the buds and flowers.

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I owe my success in growing sunflowers this year to empty water bottles. After the sprouts broke through the soil I placed a bottomless water bottle, with the top cut away, around the shoot. In a few gardens, as the sunflower grew, I added another bottle for more protection. (Bunnies are very good at standing up on their hind legs to reach the top of a tender plant.) If you live in an area that stays warm through November, there is still time to plant a crop of sunflowers.

Problem-Solving – Update/Sunflower Towers

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I don’t always have success with my critter-war weapons, but I did this year with my sunflower towers. Well, strike that, I had success with half of my sunflower towers. They worked perfectly for keeping the critters away from the sprouts and seeds. What I hadn’t counted on was our wet and cold spring…a few of the plants succumbed to soggy feet. I thought about cutting the chicken wire away from the sunflowers, but I decided against it since they are Mammoth sunflower seeds and will only have one bloom. I have grown Mammoth sunflower in years past and the buds have been nipped off pre-bloom by hungry squirrels. I think I will leave the towers in place for a little bit longer. You can read the initial post on my sunflower towers here: Sunflower Tower/The Beginning

Problem-Solving – Critter Wars/Chicken Wire, Wet Diapers and Used Kitty Litter

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So far this year very few sprouts or transplants have been bitten off by bunnies, squirrels or chipmunks.  Since warmer weather is on the way, there is still potential for the tender greens to be nipped away by a hungry rodent. I need to take preventative action before I lose any of my beautiful Mammoth Sunflowers. In the photograph above you can see a sunflower sprout, hopefully protected by the smell of a freshly wet baby diaper.

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A bag of cleaned out kitty litter also has a bit of an odor even when closed, hopefully it will frighten away any hungry rodents.

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I made small cages with chicken wire, open on the bottom, closed at tops and sides, and covered tender transplants such as zucchini and melons. Any transplant that grows from a nut-like seed seems to be a favorite of hungry animals and even birds.

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Four of my sunflowers are encased within a tall chicken wire tube. Be very careful working with chicken wire, the jagged edges bounced up several times near my eyes. It has quite a lot of spring and is unruly and hard to control. The tubes were not difficult at all to make. Bend the long cut edge together until it stays closed, cover with clear cellophane (a dollar store item) and tape with duct tape or gorilla duct tape.

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Because the tube is tall it will catch the wind. You need to anchor it to something. I used another long piece of duct tape and nailed it into the wood of my square foot garden.

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The long view from above. I have high hopes for my sunflower towers.