Monday, March 5, 2007

Of Zone 10 Non-Winters and Black Oil Sunflowers

I've got to plant something or I'm going to have issues. Florida acts during March like most of the other states of the Union do in May or June. I haven't lived here enough years to know the cycle, but the weather is so warm, MY instincts are petulantly urging "Plant, already, PLANT!"

Will there be another freak freeze? Inquiring displaced gardeners relocated to Zone 10 want to know.

I have a really big sack of black oil sunflowers. My gymnastic and prolific neighboring raccoons have made it their mission to empty both my birdfeeders nightly of this recurrent treat. The last event was Mom Raccoon suspended like an opossum upside down, gripping the rebar-thingy-plant hanger (those shepherd's crook metal poles you stick in the ground to hang plants and things from) with her inky little fingers and toes and jostling the feeder till it hung at a rakish angle and rained all the seeds upon the expectant heads of her 3 offspring waiting below. It was the epitome of cuteness. Until the next day we discovered our "animal-proof" garbage cans had been conquered by the same "adorable little guys" and their contents artistically distributed throughout the neighborhood. Their cuteness paled considerably, and my Gerber Baby response began to wane. Now they occupy the category of "uninvited, pests."

I do still scatter some seeds and occasionally refill the feeders, but I'm trying to throw off my predictability in the Free Eats department in hopes to somewhat thwart the raccoons long enough for the birds to have a chance for a decent snack. It seems they're all after the same thing...the black oil sunflower seeds.

I'm Jonesing to plant something, and we're low on tools and available soil amendments. I do have a hoe and my own good elbow grease, and there is that vacant lot with the hardpan soil. I think I need to answer the call to dig SOMETHING while so many other areas of our planning and implementation phase of homesteading are progressing so slowly. There are some rough edges around the lot, where there is uneven soil and encroaching weedy growth, so I'm thinking of chopping up the dirt thereabouts and scattering some of the sunflower seeds to see if anything will indeed come up, or if I'll just get some stunted little halfhearted midget plants. At any rate, with the bulk seed I bought being so affordable, I can spare a portion of it for the experiment.

When I do sunflowers on a more serious scale, when we're set up for it, I'll want to plant something nitrogen-rich as a green cover crop first, because sunflowers are said to love nitrogen. The advice on one site also said to rotate the location of the sunflower plantings yearly so the soil can replenish itself in-between. I'd love to hear from anyone else who had experience with growing sunflowers. When I have enough room, resources, etc, this is one plant I'd love to tuck wherever there is extra room, and explore so many of the varieties that are out there. I'd like to do that with cosmos, nasturstiums, cleome, several herbs, elderberries, queen anne's lace and joe pye weed, too.

J is motivated for us to get this house ready to sell while we're in our Paying Off Debt phase. I don't know how much he's going to be willing for us to invest in improving the existing soil on the vacant lot, etc., in the meantime...and rightly so. But it's also my life experience to "bloom where you're planted" the ways that can be done responsibly and for the sheer joy of it. I've spent too many years past waiting for an elusive "someday," and there is much that can be experimented with and learned from in the meantime.

I SHALL have the tomato plants, Lord and weather willing :) Perhaps they'll have a sunny backdrop of some stray sunflowers. I'm itching to get out there and sow, sow, sow!

Here's hoping the raccoons will let the plants alone at least until they've bloomed a long while!
Please inform me if this photo is not free for use in my post and I will immediately remove it.


Phelan said...

I have no clue. I will ask my father tonight. He lived in Port Orange. I would say go ahead and plant your cool weather foods now.

Laurie said...

I've been planting since late January in Zone 8/7B (we're on the line). I'd get a local gardener's opinion if I were you.

You can start preparing raised beds with newspapers and compost. That was my mode of operation this winter until I could plant. You can work with that hardpan if you go up and attract earthworms.

I used to love the raccoons living near our house. Now I really, really despise them. They steal things. They're so destructive and the threat of rabies to my sweet semi-feral adopted cats scares me to death. There's not a lot I can do about it.

Robbyn said...

Thanks, Phelan and Laurie, for the tips. I'm going to be doing the raised beds as soon as we are on an even keel with jobs and finances. We're battling for time and resources right now. There are some small farms around here, and I might be able to nab some manure, stable straw, or compost. For now we have some big pots I can be filling till we've gathered resources for a larger scale. I may just go ahead and sow some of the sunflowers to hopefully naturalize the unused areas on the vacant lot till I figure the rest out as we go.

If we can get our jobs secure, we'll know our schedules and can have some NORMALITY around here :)

I'll keep you posted as to how the first efforts go...thanks for the encouragement!

PALocalvore said...

I love sunflowers- and I usually have some sort of combination of red ones from seeds I toss out and hope grow, and yellow ones that are volunteers from the bird feeders. A couple of years ago my husband shoveled out the (DEEP) layer of sunflower seed shells under the feeder, and we used them to mulch an area that I thought was too shady to grow anything bu impatiens. (I was a little worried about using the shells as mulch because I had read that sunflowers seeds emit an herbicide to eliminate competition. However, the husband does what he wants, and so the area got mulched.) To my great surprise, a whole bunch of seeds sprouted, and the whole area was filled with sunflowers that summer.

Right now I envy you your non-winters! Yesterday I saw my first robin, today I have 6 inches of snow covering the ground where he was hopping around.


Robbyn said...

Oh, your flowers sound beautiful!

I'm smiling at your mention of robins. About six weeks ago, (or maybe more?), I remarked to my husband that we had quite a few robins in the backyard hopping around, and that it must be spring. Then I laughed to myself, since in Tennessee we'd only see them in April or May at the earliest. Then I drove down the road and I saw a flock of what had to be hundreds of them, which is a common occurence every day, till they fly up toward you and take the rest of the country its Spring.

I'll try to shoo some more your way :)