Mike

Mike has taken part in The Big Sunflower Project since 2016 and supported the project on his blog Flighty’s plot, where he mostly writes about his allotment.

In 2016 he wrote about the different varieties of sunflowers he grew – Mongolian Giants, Valentine and Musicbox.

In 2017 Mike told The Big Sunflower Project:

I don’t have a garden just a half-plot allotment, which is only a few minutes walk away from home, where I grow soft fruit, vegetables and lots of flowers including sunflowers.

One of the varieties I have grown was the knee-high Musicbox which did really well so I’ll be growing it again. As I don’t have a greenhouse I sowed the seeds in small pots on the windowsill at home. When I planted them out on the plot I sprinkled some organic slug pellets around them. The plants produced numerous colourful flowers over a long period and didn’t need staking.

mike

It’s said that sunflowers bring out the happy child in everyone. They certainly do with me, which is why I grow them as one of my favourite flowers and I’m happy to support this good cause, which includes linking to this website on my blog.

Mike took part in The Big Sunflower Project again in 2018 and said:

As much as I would like to grow impressively tall sunflowers my allotment is in the middle of a rather exposed site where wind damage to taller plants can occur, even when they’re staked and tied.

The past couple of years I’ve grown the knee-high sunflowers Music Box, which only grow to around 30″/75 cm and generally do well.  If you’re hoping to take part and only grow in containers then these are an ideal variety. They have numerous flowers in various colours – usually yellow, some bi-coloured red/yellow and occasionally lemon – all with dark centres.

Musicbox sunflowers

I grow them in an area I call sunflower corner where they flower from early July well into autumn. As with all the flowers that I grow they are attractive to bees and butterflies. I save some seed heads and leave others for the birds or to self-seed. This year I’ve saved a lot of these seeds to donate to Toni to send to participants in The Big Sunflower Project 2019.

 

Richard Lee Primary School

2018 was our first year being involved in The Big Sunflower Project. We wrote and asked if we could be a part of the project and one afternoon, we received some Russian Giant sunflower seeds in the post. The children (aged 3/4 years old) were so excited.

We talked about how some children are born poorly and by growing sunflowers, we can think about those children as the sunflowers grow taller and stronger. The children learnt we had to care for the seeds as they grew into seedlings, needing soil, water and sunshine.

We enjoyed regularly measuring them. When our tallest grew to over 9ft tall, a photo even made it into the local newspaper.

In the summer, we had a beekeeper visit us. He told us bees are important in our garden, and their favourite coloured flowers are yellow, blue and white. Lots of bees have visited our sunflowers this year.

When the tallest stem broke in strong winds, learning still went on. We learnt that the stem measured 20 rubber bricks long. Then we used tweezers to harvest the seeds for next year. We also put some seeds in a hollowed out pumpkin to feed the birds.

Sunflower

Grassroots Giving 2018

The Big Sunflower Project has been shortlisted for Grassroots Giving 2018 to receive a donation of £500. Over 740 applications were received and 377 groups have now been shortlisted.

Funding such as this is crucial to The Big Sunflower Project continuing and the winners will be decided by public vote, so if you like what we do please vote below for us to win.

Voting closes on 12 October 2018.

 

Grassroots Giving logo

A year in the life: 25 August 2018

The first of my giant sunflowers started to bloom in early August and the second the day after. I would have had a sunflower earlier but windy weather at the end of July saw the first one off just as the flower began to open.

Giant sunflower.

After months of nurturing they both flowered in a direction where I could not see them easily, choosing to look out over the street, instead of the garden but both plants had many flower buds and the later flowers are being more obliging.

Giant sunflower.

This year my success rate has been high. I had some seeds that didn’t germinate and a few plants have been lost to the weather but dotted around the garden today I have around 15 large variety sunflowers, some growing to dizzying heights and my dwarf sunflowers are still flowering too.

Giant sunflowers.

The last few weeks have seen sunflower photos arriving almost every day from across the UK but also from Europe and the USA. This time of year is almost like a second Christmas or birthday, each sunflower a gift which is then shared on the project social media pages, so helping raise awareness of centronuclear and myotubular myopathy with its beauty. Currently, the project has received over 600 photos from 97 participants.

Sunflower heads.

Now in late August, there is a chill in the air in the mornings but this afternoon has been warm and sunny and I chopped down the first of the giant sunflower heads that had started to go over. Strangely, it didn’t feel bad doing this, the flowers were as big as my hand (the leaves even bigger) and are bursting full of seeds – once the seeds have dried out, it will be possible to plant them next year. Dead heading should encourage the other buds into bloom too. Also I still have many sunflowers to flower and the ones that are in bloom already have today looked amazing sunning themselves against the back drop of a very blue sky, so I am looking forward to September in the garden.

Dark red sunflower.

A year in the life: 25 July 2018

It’s getting towards the end of July and all but one of my dwarf sunflowers, which was planted later than the others, are now in bloom. They are around two foot high with many flowers and are loving the proper summer we are having this year. The bees and butterflies think they are in sunflower heaven and it is really quite joyous to watch them going about their business each day.

Dwarf sunflower.

I am loving the weather too but I am spending a lot of time watering. The neighbours I am sure, think the crazy watering woman is at it again, every time they see me with my watering can but when plants are in pots or under the roof line, the rain does not get to them like they need and even a heavy rain shower for an hour doesn’t do much for those planted in the borders after weeks of intense sun.

The larger varieties are coming on nicely too. Some of them are making a bid to expand their horizons and will soon be peering over the garden fence at passersby. Many of them now have flower buds but no actual flowers yet, so I am giving them tomato feed for encouragement.

Sunflowers

As usual when I planted my sunflowers, I tagged them so I knew what they were but despite my best intentions the names have mostly washed away, so in a lot of cases, it is going to be sunflower surprise again.

Mercifully the slugs and snails have kept their distance this year, although I did find the biggest slug wedged between a flower bud and a cane after some rain recently. Sadly it wasn’t willing to listen to reason. We had a disagreement as I proceeded to try and evict it. I won but … ugh. However, said sunflower seems to be doing okay, despite the best efforts of the slug to eat it.

Dwarf sunflowers.

I am hoping to have another go at harvesting seeds this year. Last year, although the project did receive some seed donations, I had to purchase sunflower seeds for the first time since the project began, which meant less money was available for the admin costs of the project. So as flowers fade, it’s off with their heads, in the hope that the seeds will dry out and can be used next year. You can read about how to harvest seeds on this website.

If you decide to have a go too  and would like to share some of your bounty with The Big Sunflower Project 2019, please get in touch.

Sunflower heads drying out in the sun.

A year in the life: 6 May 2018

It is now almost two months since I planted my dwarf sunflower seeds. Being a dwarf variety the plants have been growing happily on the kitchen windowsill for most of this time with the occasional visit outside, to prepare them for being permanently out in the  big wide world. Six of the eight seeds I planted grew fine and I planted a couple more a few weeks after the initial planting to make up for the two that didn’t grow.

Each year it never ceases to amaze me how I can plant my seeds on the same day at the same time but how they grow at different rates. There are always the high achievers racing ahead, while others, take their time, wondering what all the fuss is about. However, overall what I have learned during the time I have been growing sunflowers, is that they flower in their own sweet time. In my case last year, this was November and while I have had sunflowers bloom during the winter months before, they have usually been second flowerings, so I am hoping for a better showing this year.

Dwarf sunflowers

Over the last few days, after a very long winter, it seems like everything in the garden is coming back to life and I can almost see things growing before my eyes, so today I transferred my dwarf sunflowers outside. Now even the biggest plants look tiny in their new  homes but the weather is set to be hot and sunny for a few days and I wanted to make the most of it. Hopefully I am giving them a good start.

Presently sat in an area of the garden which gets full sun all day, none of the plants appear to be sulking about being re-housed but later I will be putting copper rings around them to keep the slugs and snails at bay and will move them into the shed overnight.

In previous years I have found using the cut off bottoms of plastic milk bottles to be quite effective at protecting my sunflowers but last year they were not enough to protect my plants from a mass invasion of slugs and snails that arrived in the garden during a wet spell, so I invested in copper rings and will be using these from the start this year.

Dwarf sunflowers

Since planting my dwarf sunflowers I have also planted some giant sunflower seeds and these are also growing fine indoors but I am going to let them get a bit bigger before I pot them out, as currently they look as if they would make a good meal for a hungry slugs and snails.

And now the dwarf sunflowers have moved out of the house, I have been able to sow a few more large varieties indoors – Sunburst Mixed and Autumn Time, neither of which I have grown before and Copper Queen which I have. Watered and sat behind a hot window, hopefully it won’t be too long  before I have some more sunflowers growing.

Giant sunflowers

A year in the life: 10 March 2018

2018 marks the eighth year I have been growing sunflowers and this year I thought I would try and record my sunflower growing.

Seed distribution for The Big Sunflower Project 2018 began in January and there are now 252 places plotted on the project map, with seeds having been posted to destinations in the UK and Europe, to people affected by centronuclear and myotubular myopathy, charities, community groups, good causes and more.

There isn’t much in the way of planting going on yet – today is Saturday 10 March and this time last week the UK had ground to a halt because of heavy snow and freezing weather conditions. Winter 2017/2018 has been the coldest winter we have had in the UK for a number of years and there has been ice and snow on an off since before Christmas.

I tried planting some seeds in my shed getting on for a month ago now but there’s nothing doing. To be honest, I wouldn’t want to grow either given the weather we have had but it got me out the house for a short time, on a more mild day.

Solar Flash dwarf sunflower

However, today I have started in earnest and planted eight dwarf sunflower seeds. They are a variety call Solar Flash (see photo above of one I grew earlier) which I have planted for a number of years and they will grow to around two or three foot.

The good thing about these is that they will grow happily in the house for quite some time and because they are a dwarf variety, they don’t get leggy like the larger types. If I was to start those now, they would be ready to plant outside in a couple of weeks and as I don’t have a greenhouse, this will be much too early, so I will plant those at a later date.

Preparing to plant sunflowers.

So today pots have been retrieved from under the kitchen sink and filled with compost. I had a bit of help from some new friends found in a garden centre yesterday. To be honest though they weren’t much help but made for pretty photos.

A single seed was planted in each pot and watered. This year I am using ice cream sticks to label my plants with the name of the sunflower and the date it was planted rather than buying something expensive that does the same thing.

I label my plants every year as I grow different varieties but if all my plants retain the correct label or any label at all later in the year, it will be a miracle. I am using sticks from Magnum ice creams (I highly recommend the double raspberry and honeycomb ice creams) but other brands of ice cream are available.

Ice cream sticks for labeling sunflowers.Sunflower seeds planted and labelled.Sunflower seeds planted and labelled.

Now it is a waiting game … over the next couple of weeks I will give the seeds warmth, light, water and words of encouragement and hopefully, towards the end of March will be rewarded with some sunflower seedlings.

More photos