The Crop Report

Here Come the Sunflowers

Here Come the Sunflowers

September is beautiful on the farm. The cool mornings give an extra layer of pizazz to the flowers and the mountains are starting to hint at the grand show of color they plan to provide. The kids are already bugging me about pumpkins, so it’s definitely feeling like the beginning of fall around here.

Fields of pumpkins, corn, and sunflowers are easy to spot as you drive down our rural roads. If you ask my children they have been conditioned to know the sunflowers are actually a cover crop that the farmers use to feed the soil and protect it in between other crop plantings. But I was surprised at how many folks enjoying them for their fall selfies did not. These magical fields of picture gold actually have a purpose for the soil structure under those big blooms.

While we aren’t big crop farmers like the soybean or corn ones that surround us we can apply the same principles and you can too! Sunflowers are some of the quickest-to-bloom flowers available with some varieties blooming in as little as 60 days. The roots of the sunflower sequester nitrogen and pull nutrients from deep in the soil up closer to surface level, making them available to the next rotation of plants. It’s a fun little synergy that happens below our feet. They also help to break up compaction in our heavy clay soil region and prevent erosion when fields lay bare between plantings. Whenever a crop finishes blooming around here we are quick to pull it out and replant the space with sunflowers. They now dot the farm landscape as placeholders until the next rotation goes into the ground. Having some seeds on hand makes it really easy to sneak a few in after those summer begonias look fried in your landscape.

While we have always planted sunflowers to follow behind other crops it wasn’t until this year, the week of FLOWER FAIR to be exact, that we decided to cover crop like our big farm neighbors do, and of course, we picked sunflowers. Our spring flowering field was cleared and replanted with sunflowers in July and we have watched each week as the sunflowers have grown and the soil has been repaired.

We grow sunflowers differently than the big farmers do because we actually want to enjoy those blooms while we feed the soil. Our sunflowers are planted much closer than you would find in other farmer field patches, making them compete and stretch for sun. This means our plants are much shorter and the heads are much smaller so they are easier to enjoy and less overwhelming to kids and folks who need a little space to enjoy them. We also grew them in a production field which means we kept our pathways in the field so you can stand in the dead center of a beautiful sunflower patch.

We planted sunflowers to feed the soil but it turns out that when we did it in our flower farming way it feels a little too magical not to share. So, next week the sunflower mini field looks like it will be in full bloom and why not share the love? Come out to visit and swing by the Farm Shop for a pick-your-own cup where you can now harvest from the Victory Garden AND our sunflower field for a fall bouquet to enjoy! The sunflowers should be in bloom for the next two weeks so make sure you swing by the farm and check them out! Not local? Don’t worry - you can find our hardworking sunflowers fresh in a Bouquet Box and dried in a Crop Circle Wreath!

xoxo, Jess

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