Sunflowers are not the typical crop that newbie gardeners think of growing, but this might be a mistake. The fact of the matter is that sunflowers are really easy to care for, and they can also lend a notable hand in the garden. Then, of course, there are all those sunflower seeds that make a delicious snack and quickly nullify the need to ever buy sunflower seeds (to sow) again.
Since long before chemical fertilizers and GMO seeds, sunflowers have been a part of agriculture, dating back to at least 3000 BC, and they have been used for all sorts of handy stuff: seeds, oil, medicine, fiber, as well as beauty. Amazingly, sunflowers can sprout up to six feet high in a matter of three months, and seeds are usually harvestable around the same time, possibly extending on to four months.
Besides being a valuable crop in and of themselves, the Helianthus — or sunflower — family is also used to help out the garden as a whole.
Any time a productive plant requires little to no inputs and virtually no care, it’s got to make it into the garden somehow. Sunflowers are prairie plants, which has made them very tough, not greatly affected by pests or by drought. They grow in just about any type of soil, and they can survive in both acidic and mildly alkaline pH levels. Once they get themselves established, they are likely there for the long haul, so gardeners won’t be using resources to get (and keep) those sunflowers up. Now that is green gardening.
Many people choose to grow living fences. This is sometimes done with cane berries or nitrogen-fixing trees, but sunflowers are another viable option. The great thing about living fences is that they don’t require milled, often virgin wood and steel production. They are...