Sunflowers.. o the mighty sunflower!!!

Well, I have talked about it before that I have my fenced pulled back and have a 3 foot buffer zone around my little farm, the stripe is right around 3 feet, give or take a few inches depending on where the posts went in, the farmer has dug deep/fairly steep ditches on the edge my buffer zones and other then one year, my land is never directly sprayed on, and he try’s to set it to get the ditches but miss the buffer, we tend to mow the buffer down and or hand cut the buffer, but its just been allowed to naturalize

Tbis area works out to right around 5000 square feet of unused land at the moment.. I had a wild idea yesterday that I should seed this area out into these..

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

My first thought is wow, would that not be so pretty!  Just take a moment and think about the joy of seeing those happy yellow faces, that lovely row of green.. just pretty!

Then my second thought was how many would that grow, so according to my research each sunflower ideally needs one sqaure foot, so that means that its very reasonable to grow 5000 sunflower plants, now even assuming that it has good conditions and it should, there is lots of water just down once they sink their roots in, they will have little to no issues with competing plant creep be it from the pasture or the farmers field, and once its well started, sunflowers are very able to handle low growing plants themselves..

I have the correct amount of growing days on any typical given year so that means that I have a good chance of a good crop, (we will talk about how great they would be for the local bee keeper in a bit but lets just say, they already cross over the creek to come to my farm and this would just bring them in droves) so being fair, that means that somewhere between 2500 to 4000 plus sunflower heads..

So of course my next thought was, well I can dry some of those heads and hang them in the big barns hay loft that I don’t use as it a massive space with great air flow and lots of ways to hang them from, but then I stopped and really thought about this, I might be able to hang and store several hundred heads but not more then that.. that leaves a possablity of several more thousands of heads, now I am sure that the wild birds would be very happy to help releave me of some of these but still..

hmmm, so I got to talking to my momma, and she started telling me about how my grandfather used these as animal fodder as soon as the seed pods started forming but way, way before we would consider them ready for drying and storing.. This was feed to the pigs, to the sheep, goats and cows.. interesting.

So I started doing some more reading.. turns out there have been good studies done on this and up, this is a great bird and cow fodder, they are very clear what percents are safe for feeding and how to use it, so that was very very helpful.

Assuming that I get a average size head (which full size can be upward of 5 pds on the kind I picked to plant) even if I take it down by half to 2.5 pds per head, it could produce between 12 to 15 thousands pds plus of heads.. Thats somewhere around six to eight tons of fodder for the farm critters!

The green leaves can be picked and used for bedding in a light way thoughout the growing season, which is a interesting idea.. once allowed to dry, the stalks get hard and strong..

They can be trimmed and used for poles for the next gardening season or for making a natural weaved fencing projects but the thing that surprised me to find out was this gem?

“Those who undertake to grow Sunflowers should, however, bear in mind that the ash obtained from the plants after the seed has been harvested is, owing to its richness in potash, a manure of considerable value, so that it is really wasteful to use up the dry stems merely on the domestic fire; it is of more advantage to make them up in heaps on the ground, burn them there and save the ash.

At the time of cutting, strip off the leaves and feed them to rabbits or poultry. When the stems are dry and after the seed crop has been gathered, choose a fine day to burn both stems and empty seed-heads.

Of the ash obtained from burning the Sunflower stems and heads (apart from seeds) 62 per cent consists of potash, and as an acre of Sunflowers produces from 2,500 to 4,000 lb. of top, the total yield of potash is considerable. Allowing 3,000 lb. of top, there would be produced 160 lb. of ashes per acre of crop, which should contain upwards of 50 lb. of potash.

The ash should either be spread at once or stored under cover; if left exposed to rain, the potash will be washed away and the ash rendered of little manurial value. It can be used with advantage for the potato or other root crop in the following year, being spread a little while before the crop is planted, at the rate of from 1/2 to 1 OZ. to the square yard”

So if this plan can be worked out, I will have something that will use marginal land on the farm, increase the amount of bee’s food on my land, be pretty, work to improve the soil itself, produce  6 to 8 tons of animal fodder, plus greens/bedding, plus the ability to have my own garden stocks for different products and the ability to produce my own potash for my farm use, thus once again closing a loop, making something that had to be reached out for to outside the farm and making it a on the farm! 0 mile potash..

Ok, now having shared all that with you, know I have to do it now right?? What a project, So what do you think???

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11 Responses to Sunflowers.. o the mighty sunflower!!!

  1. Wow what a great project is right!! Who knew the many uses of sunflowers…and it sure would look gorgeous! I grew only a few last year and by the time I checked all the seeds were gone…ya got me thinking for sure!!

  2. heidi tijssen says:

    And did you think about sunflower oil? There is a simple apparatus, called Piteba, with which you could fairly easy extract oil from seeds.

    • to be honest no, I didn’t think of the oil, I am not planning on doing much on the human side of the eating, maybe a few bags for roasted spits for the house to house gift box’s at xmas time kinda thing but otherwise, I was focused on ways to use it for fodder for helping these truly insane grain feed prices that we are deal with at this time.

  3. Lake Lili says:

    FarmGal – Really interesting post. Sunflowers are completely new to me having not grown them before. Could they be used on the outside of my garden fence (4ft high)… My garden runs on the north and west ends of the drive shed and I am wondering if the sunflowers can act as an additional buffer against the north winds in the garden?… Any thoughts…

    • For sure, I think that is a very good possablity and I would love for a number of us to try growing a row this year and comparing notes.. now given that you don’t want to create shade but do want to create a wind block, I am going to recommend going with the black oil seed sunflowers, the reason for this is a couple, one you can go buy a bag of those seeds for a reasonable price for the birds and use them as your seed(keeps costs down) but also because they tend to grow 3 to 4 feet high, and while they make smaller heads, they would work perfectly for what you are asking about..

      I am still thinking about them for my own, I might even mix them in and or try different ones on differnet lines, we will see.. I will for sure report back.. the perk of the sunflowers (at least for most, and until they get to a certain age) is that the flowers can and will turn with the sun..

  4. Marie says:

    Wow! I did not know that either! I think I’m going to plant a few in my garden too. Just for the pretty 🙂

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  6. Kodi says:

    This is pure gold. Just like the flowers. I had considered the oil for human, and feed supplement, high in minerals and energy for birds, but hadn’t taken the time to do further research or math. Guess what’s going down my very long driveway this year?

  7. Pingback: Sunflower Report 1- May | Just another Day on the Farm

  8. Hello Farmgal! What excellent information on sunflowers! Our farm is located directly on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico in South Texas, and we are battered by relentless Gulf winds all through the spring, summer, and fall. To protect our gardens from the drying effects of this ceaseless wind, I have planted huge “hedgerows” of native wild sunflowers on the windward side of our gardens. The variety is silver leaf, which is indigenous to our area, and they grow up to 30 feet tall. The hedge rows make a wonderful windbreak that brings many bees, birds, and beneficial predators to our gardens.. At the end of the sunflower season, which is October for us, I cut about 60% of the stalks as pig fodder,l and leave the rest to reseed. Here is more info about how we do this: http://fourstringfarm.com/2013/02/28/a-sunflower-hedgerow/

    Your post has really got me thinking. I LOVE how you broke down the value of sunflowers into metrics! I am going to use your calculations to figure out how much we actually have. ALSO, I love the info about using sunflowers for potash. We burn limbs and sometimes whole live oak trees (due to necessary trimming and removing dying trees) for ash, which makes extremely good potash. More on this here: http://fourstringfarm.com/2013/06/05/the-sweetness-of-wood-ash/ But eventually we will run low on this resource. I had been thinking of putting an acre or two under cultivation for sunflowers to use as fodder, and now I have another use and reason to do it. Also, I can harvest ALL of those stalks and leave some of the heads to reseed, since the hedgerow now grows successfully all on its own, and I only have to mow around it in the spring.

    Thank you again for your great information! This is very helpful to me. I love how your mind works! I wish we were neighbors, so I could stop by every once in a while and watch what you do and pick your brain! I am wishing you the very best today!

  9. Pingback: Rendering Lard | Just another Day on the Farm

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