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Sunflower seedlings grow in two pots on a balcony

04 May 2021

Sunflowers, sunshine and sabotage!

It's sunflower growing season and there is strong competition from mother nature.

Article by Jacqui Sweet

Sunflowers, sunshine and sabotage!

There are ripples of excitement circulating around the virtual office here at Sensory Trust. Weather patterns are being monitored, special compost is being selected, lucky pots are being chosen and team names are being decided. It can mean only one thing – sunflower growing competition! And the prize? A chance to laud it as king or queen sunflower grower for 2021!

Growing promotes health and wellbeing

There is something exciting and awesome about planting a seed in a pot and nurturing it to germination and growth.

But have you ever wondered why? Well, research suggests it is because of an emotion called ‘awe’, an emotion comparable to wonder, a combination of surprise and fear. Is it fear that the tiny seed we have just planted may not grow and then gives us a sense of surprise when it does? Studies show a sense of awe can lower stress and improve overall wellbeing which sounds pretty awesome to us! Let’s not forget that spending time outdoors, is proven to make us feel healthier and happier Perhaps this feeling is a combination of both. Either way, it is a great activity for young, old and everyone in between.

It is fascinating to think that a tiny seed can hold all the information it needs to grow into a plant, mostly this just happens in nature when all the necessary factors are in place, but to be able to coax life from a seed as a human gives a real sense of satisfaction.

Given the right conditions it only takes a few days for the seed to absorb the water through its casing, push a root down into the soil and for a shoot to grow upwards to form the stem and leaves.

sunflower seedling shoots up in a brown pot
Sunflower sabotage!

Seeing the tiny shoots followed by the two first seed leaves certainly gave me a sense of delight. After a few days protected indoors I tentatively took my seedlings outside to enjoy the following few days of lovely sunshine. One morning I heard a lot of commotion going on outside and found two herring gulls pulling over the seedling pots and eating the new leaves! Initially I was sad but wondered why the gulls had done such a thing. Apparently, sunflower sprouts are very nutritious with a mild nutty flavour. Fair enough, gulls have to eat too! I managed to salvage a few seedlings and re-potted them in a more secure but less sunny spot where it was difficult for the gulls to reach.

The seedlings grew more leaves - only for them to be chewed by something other than gulls. I could see no sign of caterpillars or beetles. Taking Helen Keller’s quote to heart “Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see the shadow. It is what sunflowers do” I thought about the bugs that had eaten the leaves, these bugs in turn may provide food for the many birds that have been visiting the garden recently, so my efforts with the sunflower planting may in turn help the bird population. Ironic really, as I put sunflower seeds into feeders that the birds seem to enjoy so much more than mixed seed.

Now is the time to grow

I will plant more seeds this week, it is an ideal time apparently, in the phase of the new moon, from March to May, meanwhile here are some more interesting facts about sunflower seeds:

  • Sunflowers help decontaminate soil from heavy metals such as lead and arsenic, leaving the soil healthier.
  • Sunflowers attract bees, a sunflower head pollinated by bees will produce 90% more seeds, whereas those not pollinated by bees will only result in 10-20% seed production.
  • Sunflower seeds are nutritious, packed full of Vitamin E, magnesium, and selenium.