Growing Sunflower Greens

Growing Sunflower Greens
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Growing Instructions

Put 1/4 cup of seed - for a 5x5 inch Tray, in a jar.

Sunflower seeds float. To Soak them all evenly, fill the jar to the top with cool water and cover with a lid.

Soak for 8-12 hours.

Drain off soak water. Never Soak them again.

Rinse thoroughly.

Drain thoroughly.

Rinse and Drain again with cool water - every 8-12 hours.

When your seeds have the tiniest root showing, plant them on a thoroughly moistened medium. We use 75% Coconut Coir and 25% Earthworm Castings.

Cover your crop with another tray or plate, to keep light out and moisture in.

Keep your medium moist by watering gently as needed.

When your plants have begun to push up the cover, remove the cover and move your crop to a well lit location.

Harvest when the leaves are open and most of them have shed their hulls.

Cut just above the medium, with a scissors or sharp knife.

Our Current Crop

Black Oil Seed is not always 100% black. Sometimes the seed is black with a white stripe. If you receive striped seed from us, rest assured it is STILL BLACK OIL. See the Notes tab on this page for specifics about our current seed.

The Recent History of Sunflowers

Our farmer friend Mark has been growing Sunflowers for decades.  He grows Open-Pollinated (OP) seeds and Hybrid seeds.  Mark developed his own OP variety by selecting seeds for years - he chooses the plants that produce the best heads, fastest - and plants the seeds they produce, the following season. Through years of such scrutiny and selection he has established an Open-Pollinated seed (one that will produce consistent plants every year). It may not sound like much, but it is an enormous amount of work.  Way to go Mark!  Years continue to pass and he comes through with great seeds every time!  Sunflower Greens are the only Hybrid seed we've ever sold. There's nothing wrong with hybrids. Hybrids are NOT in any way the same thing as genetically modified organisms (GMOs)! It's just that the seeds produced from open pollinated seeds (by the seed saving farmer or the home gardener) will produce consistent plants.  Hybrids won't do that.  It's of zero concern to us growing Greens.

So, we usually have Mark's Open-Pollinated (OP) seed - but if we run out we have his hybrid.  The hybrids also produce wonderful Greens. Sometimes they are big seeds with a white stripe down their sides. I was hesitant to bring them in for fear that you all would think they were Confectionary as opposed to Black Oil Sunflowers. Though that distinction makes absolutely no difference in a seed producing Greens, it would conflict with our seed page which specifies Black Oil Sunflowers. So, to clarify - they are Black Oil but they have a white stripe. They are hybrids, so if you plant some in your garden don't expect the seed they produce to look the same. The vast majority of you will be growing them into Sunflower Greens so none of this makes any difference to you. They grow a great crop of Greens! Though it is always a good idea to store seeds in a freezer (it extents their lifetime many times over), it is a particularly good idea with these Sunflowers. Freezing them will help them grow better crops longer.

I try to keep the Notes tab on our Sunflower Greens page updated so you know what you'll get, but I don't always remember little things (or big things for that matter). Whichever you receive you can count on them being the best Sunflower Seeds available - thanks to Mark.  

Planting Density

The more densely you plant the seed the less air circulates around the individual plants. This can cause some fungal growth - we call it “fuzzies”. This is not a problem, except that it is unattractive. Some crops will have mold or rot issues. That is a problem. If you get brown pockets at the soil level, where the plants just die, you are probably in need of more air circulation, so plant fewer seeds next time. If you do encounter rot spots like that, scoop them out - if you're growing on a fluffy medium, and try to nurse your crop to completion. In summer we grow our Greens outside (from the point when we uncover the tray) for optimal air circulation.

Planting Medium

We grew Greens - on soil - in Trays, for over 2 decades. But, we have options these days - soilless Mediums -  Hemp Felt, and our all-time favorite - Coconut Coir. Hemp Felt is a thin organic material that you soak before planting upon. It holds moisture and is the least messy and compact medium we know of.  Coconut Coir acts very much like soil, but it holds water so amazingly well and is much less messy due to the long coconut fibers it includes, that we now use it - ALWAYS! 

Amending Hemp Felt with organic liquid Kelp Fertilizer, and Coir with Earthworm Castings provide your plants all the nutrients they need to grow.

Soil Notes

If you want to use something else - vrtually any soil will do. These days our base is always Coconut Coir. We used sterile composted cow manure for the tens of thousands of Trays we grew during our days as professional growers, but any sterile bagged soil - or Coconut Coir - will do quite nicely, and should be available at any garden center, and be inexpensive (depending on the general cost of living where you are of course). You can use expensive soil if you prefer - we might even be selling some - it is your choice - always. The deal is this - Greens are aided by the availability of the nutrient Nitrogen. Nitrogen is the nutrient responsible for plant growth (a very good thing when growing lettuce, spinach, collards or other leafy crops, but too much nitrogen is bad if growing peppers or tomatoes or any plant where the fruit is what we eat). Manures contain varrying amounts of nitrogen depending on the animal that originally produced it. Too much nitrogen will burn plants - almost literally burn them - hence the word HOT is used in reference to nitrogen. The higher the nitrogen content the HOTTER the manure (or fertilizer) is considered. Cow manure is the least hot - it was perfect for our needs - it supplies the growing plants with a little extra boost. Chicken, other bird manures and Bat Guano (another word for manure) are much hotter, and Earthworm castings are hotter still (castings is yet another word for manure). The catch is this: Greens, Grass and Sprouts are theoretically all too young to benefit from nitrogen and other nutrients. It is written that every seed has, within itself, all the nutrients it needs to grow to the cotyledon stage. That's as far as we grow any of our seeds (with the sometimes exception of Micro-Greens). So - though it is contradictory, it is our experience that nitrogen does help Greens in some cases (most obviously when growing Sunflower Greens). Like we always say - EXPERIMENT FOR YOURSELF. Draw your own conclusions. If you are familiar with our rap on Dogma, you'll agree with us when we say; Just because it is written does not mean that it is so. Whatever the reality - a little nitrogen can't hurt. 

Hydroponic Greens

Meaning: Growing with nothing but water and liquid nutrients.  We do not grow hydroponic Greens. We have tried but have never gotten the yields we get with a medium, and the flavor of the crops is nowhere near as delightful. They taste watered down. Now that we have a soilless alternatives we are even less interested in hydroponic Greens growing. But, if you want to try - go to Val at Go Green/Green Smoothie - she is the queen of home hydroponics. Tell her us Sproutpeople sent you!

Tray Note

Your Planting Tray (the one with the medium in it) MUST have drainage holes or slits! Nothing will grow in a medium that can not drain - that condition is commonly called "flooded". When using Hemp Felt, your Planting Tray must also have drainage, but we do use the Drip Tray to hold some water at times in the growing process. (You'll see the TIP in our instructions.)

As I've said time and time again on the site, we hate dogma, so take my dogma with a grain of salt. You can grow in trays without drainage (the amazing people at the Hippocrates Health Institute have long done so), but you do have to be able to drain excess water away. Tipping is a possibility, but we think it risky - especially for the novice grower, hence my dogma.

Re-Growing Your Crop

Greens can produce a 2nd crop - so you may continue to water after you cut your first crop. The 2nd and crop will not be as tender, and it may have fungal problems, but it is good to try growing a 2nd crop. Decide for yourself if it is worth it! . It's worth a try if only for the experience and the knowledge gained.

Dry Sunflower Seeds await their Soak.

Here is a visual representation - a picture - which shows you that Sunflower Seeds float. Keeping them under water is accomplished by screwing a screen lid on top of the jar.You really MUST do this. Really.

12 hours later... Soaked, Rinsed and Drained.

12 hours later... another Rinse/Drain cycle. We see roots beginning to emerge at this point, so we plant now.

We planted our barely sprouted (pre-sprouted) Sunflowers atop the thoroughly moistened medium of our choosing, then watered it.Cover the tray and let time move forward...

24 hours later...

24 hours later...

24 hours later...

24 hours later...

24 hours later...

24 hours later...

24 hours later...

24 hours later...

You may have harvested before now, which is swell - but if you haven't yet, now would be a good time. Pinch a Sunny every day along the way.Taste it. When do you like them best?That's when they're just right.

Family: Compositae
Genus: Helianthus
Species: annuus
Cultivar: Black Oil

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