New World Little Gardens

sunflower pattern2
sunflower

Sunflower

Helianthus annuus

Cheerful ‘Golden Crown’ sunflowers will bring a smile to everyone’s face, plus the flowers are packed with nectar and pollen so will bring in bees and butterflies. Sunflowers hate the cold, so start your plant inside and don’t move into the garden until Labour Weekend at the earliest.

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Getting started

  • Put the soil tablet on a saucer and pour 50ml of water over it.
  • Put on gloves and mix the water into the soil with your hands to make a wet mixture. Watch the soil expand.
  • Use most of your soil to fill up the pot to around 2cm below the top.
  • Carefully tear open the sachet and place the seeds on top of the soil (take care not to press down too hard).
  • Now use the rest of your soil mixture to cover the seed mat.
  • Remember to wash your hands when you’re done!

How to keep your Little Garden healthy

  • Place the pot on a clean saucer in a place with enough light, but not directly in the sun.
  • Check the soil in the morning, and before bed. If the soil feels dry and crumbly, pour a small amount of clean water over the surface.
  • Within 1 week you should see a little plant appear from the soil. That means the seeds have germinated and will be ready soon to move into a bigger pot or garden.
  • If more than one little plant grows, you can thin your sunflower seedling by choosing the strongest-looking one and removing the others.

When your seedling is ready to go in the garden

  • When your sunflower has at least two pairs of true leaves, it’s ready to move into the garden or pot, but wait until mid-late October.
  • Get your sunflower used to life outside: you can harden off your sunflower seedling by putting it in a warm and sheltered spot for 1-2 hours a day and return inside for the night. Do this for 4-5 days, leaving it outside for a little longer each day before you shift it out into the garden forever.

Planting best practice

  • As their name suggests, sunflowers love the sun! So give them a sheltered spot with full sun and good drainage.
  • They will grow in a pot too.
  • Sunflowers are fast-growing and love a really rich soil: dig through some compost and sheep pellets a few weeks before planting.

Look after your plant while it’s growing

  • As it’s growing, your sunflower will need support: tie it to a garden stake or bamboo cane.
  • It should grow to about 2m tall!
  • Try using your sunflower as a climbing frame for your Little Garden cucumbers or sweet peas.

Harvest time

  • When the seeds starts to ripen and turn brown, put a paper bag over the flower head and tie it at the bottom with string. It will stop the ripe seeds from falling out or being stolen by birds. As the seeds ripen, the flower petals will start to brown and fall off the plant.
  • You can save seed from your Little Garden sunflower to plant next year.

Watch out

  • Slugs and snails love sunflower seedlings, so create your own pest protection, lay out bait or pick off these slimy pests.
  • Cheeky birds like pulling out new sunflower plants, so protect your seedlings with netting while they’re getting established.
  • If green shield beetles attack your sunflowers, put on gloves, pick the beetles off the plant and squash them. Be prepared for some major stink: these guys are known as stink bugs because of the foul smell they emit when they are squashed.