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FutureStarrGiant sunflower seeds
Perhaps you want a temporary screen to block the view of a vacant lot or nosy neighbor. Or maybe you want to try to break the Guinness World Record for growing the tallest sunflower, last set in Germany with a 27-footer. It could be that you just want to take up the challenge of growing something as tall as your house from a bean-sized seed in one season. Many sunflowers are genetically programmed to become giants, but with some extra care, you can grow a colossal stand of blossoms that will cause passers-by to stare and wonder.
Sunflowers are touted as low maintenance plants that thrive in poor soil, but these growing conditions will not yield the sturdy giants you desire. The secret side of sunflowers is that they are greedy feeders and drinkers that crave deeply worked soil with excellent drainage. If you don’t like double digging, consider planting them in raised beds heavily amended with manure and compost. Plant your seeds at least six inches apart in rows three feet apart, knowing that you will thin them after they germinate.When the petals of your sunflowers begin to shrivel, the plant has reached its peak height. If you are growing an heirloom type, save seeds from the largest several plants, and plant the largest seeds (with the most life-sustaining endosperm) next season to increase your giant sunflower growing success. In this way, you will improve each generation by selecting the largest and most vigorous flowers to replant.
The heirloom giant sunflower varieties are treasured for their oil-rich seeds, both for animal food and as snacks. When the petals wither and the bloom's beauty has faded, you must protect the developing seeds from hungry scavengers with some fine netting or cheesecloth fastened with a rubber band. When the back of the bloom turns brown the seeds are ready to eat or to store in a cool, dry place for winter bird feeding.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. (Source: www.reneesgarden.com)