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California Gardening: Disappointing Sunflowers

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snorkelpop
San Diego, CA
(Zone 10b)

August 8, 2011
4:20 PM

Post #8745169

The accompanying photograph shows my Sunflower crop this year. It is very disappointing because of the height. This variety of Sunflower is supposed to reach heights of 8 to 10 feet but, as you can see, my plants are nowhere near that. This is why I came here. I need advice on how to maximize the height of my Sunflowers next year. How can I improve the probability of adding 4 to 5 feet to the height of my Sunflower plants next year? I live in Coastal San Diego.

Thumbnail by snorkelpop
Click the image for an enlarged view.

Aslan89
Harlingen, TX

March 20, 2012
11:06 PM

Post #9050952

What kind of soil do you have? Maybe it is too sandy and fast draining. I grew mammoth last year which is supposed to be near that height but only got 6-7 feet but nice healthy plants.

I mixed in some miracle grow soil with our sandy orchard soil and watered plenty.
Anniesfollies
Carlsbad, CA
(Zone 10b)

March 21, 2012
7:27 PM

Post #9052145

Could it be the cooler weather and lack of sun last summer in the area? I'm in Carlsbad four miles from the coast and last year we had so many cloudy days that I finally just gave up on getting any tomatoes.
OCCAROL
Santa Ana, CA
(Zone 10b)

March 22, 2012
7:30 AM

Post #9052596

I think that is your answer, judging by my garden last year.
snorkelpop
San Diego, CA
(Zone 10b)

March 22, 2012
10:44 AM

Post #9052821

It's good to be back. I had let my membership expire simply because I didn't think I would be using it anymore, and I only came back today because I wanted to report on the outcome of certain experiments I had made. I hadn't expected to see anything on Sunflowers, but three have now commented on the subject. I thank all of them, and here's my reply.
Asian89: I, too, think the soil is at fault, and I'm preparing myself to do a "soil makeover". It will be a lot of unpleasant work--wish I had a Rototiller--but it must be done, and soon. I already have 12 cubic feet of Vermiculite, and I will be buying some soil-mix or compost material from Home Depot. I might also add some steer manure. Ultimately, what I do will be guided by soil tests I will be making TODAY. I don't have an awful lot of faith in soil-testing kits (The colors of the dissolved and treated soil almost never match the printed colors), but what else can I do? By the way, we're not talking about a large lot; the planting space is only abt. 31'X3-1/2' by the side of my trailer. Finally, I'm now thinking of planting both Sunflowers and Corn. I would plant in two rows with them alternating. It won't produce a pleasing aesthetic effect, but you can't have it all. I'm more interested in raising some BIG plants, a variety of them. Oh, the corn I have is called Skyscraper. I just hope that it will live up to its name.
Anniesfollies: I can't comment on that because I have no recollection about last year's weather (Ask me about yesterday, and I'd do better).
OCCAROL: Maybe I should keep a diary.
Aslan89
Harlingen, TX

March 22, 2012
10:55 AM

Post #9052836

Well it sounds like you have a plan! Simply loosening up the soil and adding in some new compost or soil will help I'm sure. Just don't get your hopes up, take it one day at a time haha.

It looks like your zone is even warmer than mine and I planted my corn nearly a month ago because I know the heat is going to set in soon. This whole week for us here is full sun and high 80's already. I'm so not looking forward to summer :/
SingingWolf
Menifee, CA
(Zone 9a)

March 22, 2012
11:37 AM

Post #9052878

Hi snorklepop,
I think the weather has a lot to do with the growth of the veggies. We plant later than a lot of folks, but in our poor decomposed granite soil, our large sunflowers usually do quite well even with a shorter season. The wild sunflowers grow up to the point where they topple over. I let them grow for bird food for the wild birds winter forage.
I think you might need to sweeten the soil. It does look pretty sandy in the photo. I'm with OCCAROL (Hi, long time!), and Anniesfollies on the weather too.
Good luck, and welcome back snorklepop. : - )
BTW, we are having a RU next month, if you would like to attend, you are most certainly invited. : - )
As are the rest of you. : - )
You've already planted your corn, Harlan? I guess I'd better look, see where y'all live in TX. : - )
I won't be planting anything out in the ground until after this weekend. We've had abnormally cold temperatures for our region this year, and not enough rain. They do like hot sunny days, but I'll be irrigating as usual.
Good luck with your Sun Flowers, snorklepop, and one comment from my past. I used to grow the Giant Gray Stoke Sunflowers, and I saved the seeds to use for the following year. After a couple of years, my plants had reverted to the smaller variety. You may need fresh seed from time to time. I'm sure you have some but I wanted to share my observation with others who love the sunflower plant too.
I have a different variety of Giant Sunflower seed that I found at Lowe's I'm going to try this year.
I'll let ya know how it goes.
My ES plans on planting some up at his place, and I wonder if there will be a difference in how well they grow, because of the differing locations. I suppose I really ought to warn him about the rabbits too. : - )
WIB~
SW
Aslan89
Harlingen, TX

March 22, 2012
5:35 PM

Post #9053283

Lol yup! I thought it was early too but people farther north in Texas were telling me how they were already starting! I live in deep south Texas. We didn't even get a freeze this year, not that we never do because a year or two ago we had half an inch of ice on everything but that is rare.

Anyway, my corn is nearly 2 feet tall already and looking healthy. Didn't have much luck with it last year but I started it closer to now with my watermelons and it was just too hot for it to get going I think. The melons on the other hand LOVE our heat and sun.
ERNIECOPP
Vista, CA

March 22, 2012
5:44 PM

Post #9053291

Snorkelpop,

I remember hearing many years ago, that corn needs to be planted a few rows wide in order for it to pollinate properly, and if that is not done the ears will not fill out. I cannot confirm this, but it makes enough sense that you might want to check it out before planting single rows of corn.

Ernie
Aslan89
Harlingen, TX

March 22, 2012
10:08 PM

Post #9053536

That is true, they recommend 4 or more rows side by side rather than 1 long row because corn is wind pollinated. If you really wanted to, you could pollinate it yourself and plant it however you want but the former way is probably easier.

The reason they recommend multiple rows is because the anthers and pollen are located at the top of the plant while the corn cob, which is basically a bunch of corn plant ovules, is located farther down the stalk. The 'silk' you always hear people talk about which protrudes from the end of the cob is made up of many many strands that are each connected to a corn ovule that needs to be pollinated in order to produce a corn seed.

Its weird to think of it like this, or at least to me, but when you eat corn you are basically eating a bunch of little corn babies. :p
ERNIECOPP
Vista, CA

March 23, 2012
7:10 AM

Post #9053815

An old Iowa Corn Farmer told me one time that every ear of corn in the field has the exact same number of kernels, regardless of size. I never had time to count them, so cannot confirm, but i thought that was interesting.

Ernie
snorkelpop
San Diego, CA
(Zone 10b)

March 23, 2012
11:52 AM

Post #9054112

Wow! It looks like we've got something started here. I'd like to reply now, but I do have things to attend to in the garden. As a matter of fact, this trip to the computer was really a delaying tactic. I had my hand on the shovel, but then I got to thinking "I wonder what's happening on..." Sheer avoidance. I'm now going back to do what I should have done before. I will say that I've found that Sun flowers aren't very fussy. However, most authorities do say Sunflowers prefer things on the acidic side whereas I've found that their planting grounds are very alkaline. I'll fix that, although most authorities also say that you shouldn't try to change the Ph in one-shot. I have a lot more to say, but the job is waiting. I'll be back.
snorkelpop
San Diego, CA
(Zone 10b)

March 23, 2012
2:14 PM

Post #9054264

Now I know that I can do it. I didn't before. My project is to remove the first two feet, move it to a nearby concrete pad, and then bring it up to the desired standard by mixing it with store-bought compost, Vermiculite, fertilizer,etc. It's a project that I was really dreading, but when I started using a garden fork instead of a shovel, I realized that I could do it. If I had stuck with a shovel, the results could easily have been different. Sure, it can be done with a shovel, but could I do it? That's the question. Fortunately, thanks to the garden fork, I no longer need the answer. Here's a picture of the fork and the work I was able to do with it. I'd say that it took me less than half an hour to do the entire plot. Now I'm going back to do the removal of the first layer. No need to kill myself, so I might stretch the complete job out over two or three days.

Thumbnail by snorkelpop
Click the image for an enlarged view.

ERNIECOPP
Vista, CA

March 23, 2012
3:21 PM

Post #9054333

I am surprised that you did not mention adding sulphur to reduce alkali. I have never needed to do personally, but i know that is frequently used to lower the pH in high alkaline soils, and is a pretty quick remedy.

Ernie
snorkelpop
San Diego, CA
(Zone 10b)

March 23, 2012
4:42 PM

Post #9054439

ERNIECOPP:
I didn't mention sulfur, but I did say that I was going to fix the alkaline soil problem. As a matter of fact, I was thinking about it just now while I was moving soil to the mixing area. I already have acidifiers, but I was thinking about sulfur because it is my impression that it is a slow worker, and my acidifiers are quick-acting. Ideally, there should be a blend of the two. Well, that's it for today. I will continue tomorrow, though, unless I'm too sore. Maybe I baby myself, but I am 74, and I don't want to overdo anything. Just now, for example, I started to get a headache, so I quit half an hour before I had planned. There's time enough. Better safe than sorry.
Aslan89
Harlingen, TX

March 23, 2012
7:53 PM

Post #9054661

Erniecopp: I think that comment about all corn cobs (of a single cultivar, not all of them because variation can happen) is probably correct. I'm no expert of course but Botany is a major focus of my biology major and I would imagine that each cob starts with the same number of ovules which could become corn kernels but its likely that some will not get pollinated by pollen which would lead to different totals. Thats interesting though, I had never thought of that before.

snorkelpop: I bet that by mixing in your other ingredients it will help with the pH as long as you mix enough in. I'm sure you already know this but just be careful with how much fertilizer you mix in, and how well you mix it. You don't want a clump of fertilizer that might burn your plants. I myself am surrounded by land that varies from a 7 to 7.5 pH but usually things do just fine around here. If I am planting flowers like roses or nicer plants I usually dig a large hole and use miracle grow soil and I have not had any problems with the pH yet. I even have several gardenias that have been thriving in the ground because I dug really large holes and used a 50/50 mix of miracle grow tree soil and sphagnum peat moss. I guess I didn't' need to share all of that but I am so proud of my gardenias :p It only took me 2 years and 6 dead gardenias to get things right! lol
ERNIECOPP
Vista, CA

March 23, 2012
8:21 PM

Post #9054693

The old farmer was adamant that ALL ears of corn had the same number, but of course they had to be completely filled out. I do not know, as i never counted any of them, but small pop corn ears do have smaller kernels.

We had the most beautiful Gardenia bush growing here when we moved in last Spring i had ever seen, just covered with blooms, and i was bragging about it until Linda, my housemate, told me it was a Camelia bush, so i shut up then.

ernie
SingingWolf
Menifee, CA
(Zone 9a)

March 24, 2012
6:26 PM

Post #9055736

Never argue with old farmers or housemates.
I've never heard that about corn cobs, but am not bored
enough to do a statistical analysis either. LOL!
I often get camelia's and azalea's confused too, Ernie.
You have excellent timing. : - )
WIB~
SW
Anniesfollies
Carlsbad, CA
(Zone 10b)

March 24, 2012
6:36 PM

Post #9055746

Since this discussion has traveled around a bit I have to add a bit of corn trivia. Each kernel of corn has its own piece of corn silk, which explains why there are so many strands. I've always been fascinated by this since I first heard it.

For those who are curious or skeptical here's a link that describes how corn forms: http://www.extension.org/pages/14036/corn-silks . It's really quite interesting.

This message was edited Mar 24, 2012 8:24 PM
Aslan89
Harlingen, TX

March 24, 2012
8:48 PM

Post #9055888

I LOVED studying plant morphology. I have enjoyed all of my courses related to plants but it was so fascinating studying the different morphologies and how they came to be that way over time. After taking Genetics this past year I have been very eager to hybridize all kinds of plants in my garden. Most of the time you end up with things that are not of much use or not even as good as the originals but it's incredible, to me anyways, that you have a plant that no one else does.

Btw, in reply to a previous post. Are camellias scented? I have seen some available at home depot but I already have my hands full with what I already have. I had never been interested in them before until I saw them in bloom in person at the store.
snorkelpop
San Diego, CA
(Zone 10b)

April 23, 2012
7:39 AM

Post #9094158

For various reasons, I was unable to complete preparing the ground where my Sunflowers will eventually be planted, so I planted the seeds in plant trays, and I'll transplant them when the ground is ready. This gives me more time to finish my project without delaying the Sunflowers. I didn't want any runts this year, so I have planted varieties that that are called giants their sellers. The varieties are: American Giant, Giant Primrose, Girasol, Mammoth, Mongolian Giant, Skyscraper, Sunzilla, and Titan.

Remember, the title of this topic is "Disappointing SUNFLOWERS".

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