Sunflower follies…


A little update about the sunflowers.  I planted roughly 1100 seeds of 11 different varieties.  I installed a drip irrigation system.  This is the first time I have ever done anything like this and I was so nervous about doing it wrong but it went together just fine.  
I was concerned about getting good germination.  Last year, my germination was completely terrible.  I think I had planted about 1700 seeds but only had a little over 300 plants (for the whole season!).  This year, I tried a little experimentation with planting seeds directly into the ground and starting transplants and then transplanting into the field.  Well, both methods worked pretty much equally well and my germination was up close to 90% so I wiped my brow and breathed a sigh of relief…until…
Pic after Henry mowed down the “lanes” the grass was getting taller than the sunflowers!
The boys and I went to Kansas and I guess I just thought that everything was going great and when I got back, the flowers would have grown so tall BUT they looked kind of sickly (this also me me almost sick to my stomach…all that work and I just felt like they were dying…ugh!).  I ran home and consulted with Henry (my hubby).  They were quite pale so we decided some fertilizer was needed. I found a rate of fertilizer online for cut sunflowers (not easy to do…most rates are for oil seed sunflowers).  Henry did the calculations for me (thank you!) and I headed out to apply the fertilizer.  
The good news is the the flowers greened up immediately and started growing!  But things were still going so S-L-O-W-L-Y…

Gold sunflower at the end of the rainbow

 I think the weather had a little bit to do with the delay in flowering.  We have had some crazy cool weather and then it gets a little hot and then it cools down again.  These are not ideal growing conditions for sunflowers.  Sunflowers like it hot and that is what we finally got this past week (the last week of July) and they finally started to pop!

Sunflowers in the field
Booth at my first week of 2016 at Farmer’s Market.  New banner, chalkboard sign, and stand for jams.
So, I have planted 11 different varieties and I can tell you already that the single stem varieties are totally kicking butt (I guess that is why they tell you to plant single stem varieties for cut flowers).  That is mostly what I had picked yesterday (ProCut Gold, ProCut Orange and ProCut Lemon).  The branching varieties are really lagging but coming along.  The double sunflower I had chosen is not going to be great for cut flowers, the stems of the flowers are too short.  Last year I grew a double, single stem and it had a lot of deformed heads.  I guess I will try another variety of that kind next year.  
Another thing I wanted to mention is that I planted the single stem varieties about 6 inches apart.  Johnny’s said you could plant them 4-6 inches apart.  I am going to plant them 4 inches apart next year. (I know there are a lot of boring details here but I refer back to these blogs for notes when the next growing season starts so it is part blog part journal for me…)
Overall, it has been a good sunflower year, despite the worries of the fertility matter and the cool weather.  I took 87 flowers to the market yesterday and my goal was to take about 100 each week.  As the other varieties start blooming, I think this goal will be attainable.