It is August and I am nostalgic for Giant sunflowers.  I miss growing them.  They are too big for our townhouse garden.    I remember when my 5 year old son planted sunflower seeds in our community garden.  In wonder he watched them grow fast  into hard thick stalks towering over him.   Bright and cheerful garden flags waving  and smiling over our garden.  How could a  simple seed grow so tall and produce hundreds more seeds inside the flower’s center?

My son inspired me to write this simple poem over 4 years ago when we played in our sunflower garden.

A Community Garden

A neighborhood of dirt plots,

Garden F-1 is our spot.

Open the gate, down first row,

Here’s the garden we did grow.

See my sunflowers standing tall,

an umbrella, a green wall.

Under giants I will run,

play hide and seek

with the sun.

Unexpected Sunflowers

our compost bin

Our compost bin sprouted a short and compact sunflower plant with small (for a sunflower) bright blooms. Those blooms attract a diverse group of bugs to our garden. Unlike the tall sunflowers we usually grow, these sunflowers are at eye level.   We can see the bees, ants, beetles, stink bugs and assassin bugs inside each floret filled center.

Sunflowers are great in a vegetable garden because they attract beneficial bugs to the garden and divert pest bugs from vegetable crops.

Do you have any surprise plants growing out of your compost bin?

Sunflower and Gourd Seeds Planted

sunflower and gourd seeds planted

My son has his own garden bed in our community garden plot. For the last two years he has only planted Giant Sunflower seeds in his garden bed. This year he planted Bottle Gourd seeds along with a new variety of Sunflower seeds.  My son plans to make his own birdhouses and musical instruments from the gourds he grows (we will consult the Gourd Reserve when it comes time for harvesting and drying the gourds).   He planted Magic Roundabout Sunflower seeds,  a  hybrid sunflower that branches out and produces more than one flower per plant through summer into fall.   I plan to brighten our house with cut sunflowers this summer and fall!

Everything from our garden plot does not need to be edible to be useful!

Sunflowers Protect Garden

sunflowers from 2010 garden

Last week in our community garden we turned the soil, picked spinach, pulled weeds, planted sugar snap peas, leeks and shallots and discussed last years’ stink bug invasion with a new garden neighbor.   She feared the stink bugs might cause damage to her new garden this summer.  She heard other community gardeners’ stories of tomatoes, squash and other crops ruined by the pesky bugs.  I reassured her that the stink bugs did not damage our crops.  We had an abundance of tomatoes, peppers, eggplants and squash, but by the end of summer our sunflowers were infested with the bugs.  We had a stink bug hotel towering above our garden (see Fall Clean Up and Demolition blog post).   We did not plan to grow sunflowers in our garden this year, but after talking to our new garden neighbor,  I realize the sunflowers probably saved our crops last year!   We will plant sunflowers again to divert the stink bugs.

How will you protect your garden from the stink bugs this year?