Giant Sunflowers

Sunflowers and Nasturtiums growing together at home last July
Despite the notoriously wet Irish summers, Sunflowers do very well in Ireland - even on the wild west coast. In fact, giant sunflowers will grow happily in pretty much any full-sun spot in the garden. This large variety will grow to between 5 and 8 feet tall, producing one large centre flower and a number of smaller off shoot flowers. Flowering will usually start in early July and can last right through to September - all going well. When the flowers start to wither, you can then harvest and dry the seeds - which make a nice snack when dried or a ready supply of seeds for next years crop.
12 inch saplings ready for planting out 
Sunflowers are surprisingly easy to grow - and once you start then off in the right way, they will more-or-less look after themselves. They grow readily from seed - a little too readily in fact - so you have to be sure not to start them too early.
Burren Berries supplies a range of seeds, all hand-saved from the previous years crop, young saplings for garden planting and established plants in pots. To get your hands on some Irish sunflowers just check out the SHOP.

Growing from sunflower seeds:
Plant the sunflowers seeds in a tray of fine compost indoors in late May or April. The plants should germinate within a week or ten days. These tiny sapling are delicate and will reach quickly for the sun. Once they have a third and fourth leaf, you can pot them into individual pots and about a week or 10 days after this, harden them off for going outside. It is dangerous to allow sunflowers to linger too long inside - they will inevitable start to reach for the sun, becoming stringy and a little wimpy. So, be sure not to plant them too early, as they will need suitable weather to be outside about a month after planting.

Growing from saplings:
Location is the key when it comes to sunflowers. They love sun [naturally] so a full sun location is perfect. They can be susceptible to wind, especially when small, so a spot with a little protection - like against a small wall perhaps - is ideal. They are not picky about soil ph and will thrive in anything from slightly acidic to somewhat alkaline dirt. They like water, and will need watering in any prolonged dry spell, but they hate being water logged. Once planted, they will take a week or two to settle and then [weather permitting] will take off.  Some plants may need staking as they grow, but remember to come back and loosen or remove the ties - the sunflower stem will swell dramatically and the plants can actually decapitate themselves on their own ties [messy]. They are largely pest free although slugs do like to munch them, especially the small sapplings, and birds will sometimes like to peck at the sunflower seeds in the mature flowers.

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