Tom has focused on breeding the ultimate tall competition varieties for home gardeners. Tom saves his longest stalks and largest seeds in his garage each year to measure against the following years. He has prizes of 17 feet and 24 feet. Tom has agreed to share his method of growing giants in your home garden.
First – Choose the Right Variety
Despite the growing popularity of new color introductions, the sunflowers that grow largest are those most of us still imagine first when thinking of sunflowers. These have tall single stalks with big flower faces of golden yellow petals and chocolate brown centers that ripen into heavy heads filled with seeds that birds will love. I asked Tom why serious competitors should grow his variety instead of traditional varieties of large sunflowers like Mammoth, Russian Mammoth or California Greystripe. He explained that the seeds in
The sunflowers that grow the largest are the ones that most of us still think of when we think of sunflowers. These have tall single stalks with big flower faces of golden yellow petals and chocolate brown centers that grow into heavy heads filled with seeds that birds will love. I asked Tom why competitors should grow his variety instead of the traditional ones. He explained that the seeds in Sunzilla are hybrid, developed to be uniform and reliable, so that when you thin them, you do n’t have to worry. While older varieties tend to fall over in wet or windy weather, Sunzilla has been selected for a strong, thick stalk to support its heavy head. It produces huge seed heads when it reaches heights of 16 feet or more.
Site and Soil Preparation Are Critical
If you want to grow them to their fullest potential, you should see at least 8 hours of direct sunlight per day. Prepare your soil by digging an area of about 3 feet in diameter to a depth of about 2 feet, if you choose a well-drained location. Sunflowers deplete the soil more than many other crops because they are heavy feeders and need to be reloaded each season.
Work in a slow release granularfertilizer that also contains trace minerals. It ‘s deep into your soil. Since I ‘m an organic gardener and raise rabbits, I plan to mix in a bucketful of composted rabbit waste with a balanced slow-release fish fertilization. An organic amendment containing trace minerals such as greensand or dried seaweed can be added to your soil.
The Right Way to Sow and Thin For Success
To grow the largest sunflowers, it is essential to direct sow seed directly into the garden, rather than start them in pots of any kind. This is because sunflowers have long taproots that grow quickly and become stunted if confined. Peat pots in particular often dry out and block off root growth. Despite many gardener’s best intentions, transplanting often gets postponed – so beat the odds and plan to sow seeds in the ground.Since sunflowers that are planted in midsummer often flower on shorter stalks, sow your giant sunflowers earlier-as soon as all danger of frost is past and night temperatures are above 50 degrees Fahrenheit both day and night. In the shorter-season, cold winter areas of the U.S., this means late May to early June. The ideal spacing in rows for giant sunflowers with large seed heads is 20 in. apart. If you plant closer, you might get taller stalks but smaller heads. If you plant farther apart, the seed head may be larger, but possibly too heavy for the stalk to bear. If you have limited space, Tom recommends sowing in a small clump that will eventually be thinned to one plant.
To grow the largest sunflowers, sow seed directly into the garden rather than starting them in pots. This is due to the fact that sunflowers have long taproots that grow quickly if confined. Peat pots can dry out and block off root growth. Despite many gardener ‘s best intentions, transplanting often gets postponed and so beat the odds and sow seeds in the ground. If you want your giant sunflowers to flower in the summer, sow them earlier as soon as the weather warms up and the risk of frost is gone. The winter areas of the U are cold. Late May to early June is what this means. 20 in is the ideal spacing for giant sunflowers. You might get taller stalks if you plant closer. The seed head may be too heavy for the stalks to bear if you plant farther apart. Tom recommends sowing in a small clump that will eventually be thinned to one plant if you have limited space.
To sow seeds, water your soil, and press seeds 1 inch deep in clumps of 3-6 seeds. Put snail bait in a circle around the clump and cover it with nets to protect from birds. The seedlings will appear within a few days if the soil is kept moist. Thin the plants to the most vigorous 3 or 4 when they grow to 3 inches. When they are a foot tall, thin them to 2 and when they reach 2 feet high, pick the most vigorous candidate. In the event that predator damage any of the others, the gradual thinning method is used to ensure that you have at least one good seedling. If you ‘re going for giant sunflowers, it ‘s important to thin back to the best single seedling. You ca n’t grow a giant in your garden if you leave several seedlings growing too close together.
Feeding and Care of Your Growing Giant
Feed and water frequently. Water around the root zone about 3-4 times. The plant has about 2 gallons of properlyDiluted liquidfertilizer solution per week. The small doughnut-shaped moat is 18 inches around the plant and four inches deep. Every week, pour several gallons of properlyDilutedFertilizer into the Moat. The roots can grow up to 4 feet below the surface. If you pourfertilizer directly on the stems, it can cause them to rot.
Another way to feed larger plants is to drive a steel stake into the ground about 3-4 feet deep and 112 feet from the plant. The holes should be filled with properlyDiluted Liquid Fertilization. Tom uses Miracle Grow, but as an organic gardener, you can use liquid organic fertilizers.
As a member of your family, Tom recommends that you care for giant sunflowers. As your plants grow taller and more heavy, be attentive to the weather reports. When heavy winds are predicted, delay watering. It ‘s not usually necessary for sunflowers to be taken, but it can be helpful if they must be grown in conditions that are too crowded or in too much shade.
Harvesting and Enjoying Giant Seed Heads
As the petals fall off, the center florets dry up and the seed kernels begin to swell in the disks, carefully climb a stepladder and cover your flower head with a mesh onion bag or loose burlap or paper bag. This keeps marauding birds from robbing your seeds so that the heads look perfect and complete when you are ready to show them off to friends or proudly display them on their long stalks at your local county fair. Cut the stalks at the base when the ripened seeds develop a hard shell. If you plan to preserve them for your bird feeder, wait until the seeds are completely dry; then remove them by hand or by rubbing them over wire mesh into a basket. Store in tightly closed containers to keep rodents away.
As the petals fall off, the center florets dry up and the seed kernels begin to swell in the disks, you can cover your flower head with a mesh onion bag or a paper bag. The heads look perfect and complete when you are ready to show them off to friends or proudly display them on their long stalks at your local county fair, because this keeps marauding birds from robbing your seeds. When the ripened seeds develop a hard shell, cut the stalks at the base. If you want to preserve them for your bird feeders, wait until the seeds are completely dry, then remove them by hand or by rubbing them over wire mesh. Store in tightly closed containers.
Giant Fun for All Ages
Children can be inspired to enjoy the garden by growing giant Sunzilla sunflowers. The seeds are large and easy to handle. Like Jack ‘s beanstalk, the plants grow quickly and the flower heads look cheerful. Tall sunflowers can be planted as forests, playhouses or teepees. If you give the sunflowers several weeks head start, you can grow vines like scarlet runner beans. It ‘s easy to get children involved in the excitement of watching how tall a family sunflower grows each day, or let them compete on their own!
Want to know how to grow summer long sunflowers ?