Sunflowers are fascinating things to watch as they grow from tiny seedlings in to the garden sky-scrapers of our summer planting.
They are loved by the bees, ants and lacewinged moths, and even last year we found a NZ Weta living inside the stem and calling it home.
There are however, some two winged thieves that are looking to cash in on an easy feed as their seeds ripen, so we recommend some defensive measures to protect your stash so that you, not the avian hordes can enjoy the harvest.
During our first growing year, we wondered when the sunflowers we ready to be de-seeded and on reading on Google, it suggested to net the heads otherwise the birds will have a feast. True to those words, even though we checked everyday, the whole lot went in an afternoon, when the birds must have used facebook to get the whole neighbourhood round to dine in style in our back yard.
So here’s my tried and tested method to ensure your seed supply.
In short the lifecycle of a sunflower head is a pleasure to watch. Initially the heads unfurl and the face is somewhat concave. as soon as they show face, they are packed with pollen and the local bee tribes do their stuff and as the head matures, the seeds begin to develop from behind the face and as the swell, the face flattens and then becomes convex.
After the pollen dries up, the bees stop visiting, this is the time to be on your toes. As soon as the yellow petals start to shrivel up, wither and turn brown, it’s time to cover up.
We have used a large old net curtain and cut them up into tea towel sized squares. These squares are then wrapped completely around the face of the sunflower and using a garden tie fix them tightly to avoid the feathery invaders. The crop is now secure!
As you can see the result looks something like tudor England with heads on Highgate Hill
Now it’s time to sit and wait until the main plant starts to die back and the harvest begins!
Several birds have taken a close inspection of the netted seed supermarkets, only to be thwarted by some cleaver re use of net cutains. It brings a whole new meaning to the concept of “Angry Birds!”