Sunflowers for soil-water-conditions-management?

Discussion in 'Planting, growing, nurturing Plants' started by Fred, Sep 10, 2016.

  1. Fred

    Fred New Member

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    Today I made an interesting observation. On my balcony there is a pot with a small oak to grow up. This year the birds seeded an additional sunflower in this pot. I was not sure wether I like it or not, because sunflower is reagared as a water and nutrient robber in some publications, while other people hold sunflowers in high regards. Unsure, I decided to use permaculture principle #1: Observe.

    Sure, observation was not all, the pot surely needed much more watering with the sunflower than the oak alone, and also nurtient defficiencies were by far sooner observable on the sunflowers leaves compared to the oak.

    These days the birds have already harvested half of the sunflower seeds. I want to keep some for next year so I decided to chopp of the ripe seed-head. Because it is a multihead variety with some buds, I cutted directly underneeth the seed head, and harvested not the whole plant( to leave the rest to see if the second bud might bloom).

    And then the interesting thing happend:
    It should not be surprising, because Geoff repeatingly mentioned the function of plants as water pumps in the PDC, but it was still impressive what happens next: Few minutes after the cut, I realized a remarkable water amount pouring out of the sunflower/oak pot. It was more than two hours ago that I watered them, and I was sure there was no excess water. All the time the plants were on full sun since then, so pretty much of them should already be used, normaly on a sunny day like this I'm accustomed to rewater pretty soon, because it is a directly south facing balcony. All in all the amount of water which was released from the headcut sunflower was more than the water capacity of the pot.

    This was pretty impressive how much water was stored in this small pot sized sun flower, not even 1 meter high and just about 1cm diameter which was showing only an fair/ok watering condition status.

    So now I'm thinking about concepts how these simply releasable "water-storage-plants" can put into use for managing water conditions in the kitchen garden. We have wet-dry conditions here in the temperate climate of south germany. In spring it is often long time too wet to work on the soil while in summer water-stress conditions occours.

    So the idea is to incoorporate lot of spring sunflowers, which should help to condition the soil for the crops, and then by need in summer time on occation release their stored water when necessary. Would you think this concept could work?
    The question now is how best to start of early sunflowers ideally before the main crop plants...
     
  2. 9anda1f

    9anda1f Administrator Staff Member

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    OK, this is amazing and something I've not heard of before. Great insight and observational skills!
     
  3. Kenton Brown

    Kenton Brown New Member

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    Amazing!!
     
  4. Bryant RedHawk

    Bryant RedHawk Junior Member

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    Brilliant observation. Yes you can use them to mitigate water, to start them early use cloches or water towers.
    When the dry season hits you can use a few at a time for water pumps to reduce the amount of water you have to use.. I use them on my south facing hill amongst my grape vines. The sunflowers suck up a lot of the runoff water that would erode soil away from my vineyard. Then when we have a short draught I can cut a head here and there and wunderbar, the vines are watered. My only problem is the stalks have to be tall in my climate. But those stalks dry nicely and do make good flutes.
     
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  5. Maia sue

    Maia sue New Member

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    Wow, i did not know this.
    I plant sunflowers indoors in the early spring and move them outside. So that way they have a head start on the main crops, that might be an idea.
    I planted them between beans (as a stalk) and with a ground cover of pumpkins together with mais/corn, worked pretty wel.
     
    Last edited: Sep 17, 2016
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  6. Fred

    Fred New Member

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    Thank you Redhawk,
    your experience shows, that this idea works. Erosion control is a reasonable additional function, good permaculture useage ;)
     

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