So, it’s that time of year and I know exactly what you’re doing,
hidden away in your bathroom pretending to use the privy when, in fact, you’re pouring over your stash of newly arrived seed catalogs. Don’t even bother to deny it; I know how it is because I’m doing it, too. In fairness to you, if everyone would leave you alone with your obsession and not expect you make lunch or fold laundry, you wouldn’t have to resort to hiding.
Well, you’re among friends here and while you’re scribbling away at your seed list for the coming year, I would like to make a suggestion for something to try in your garden. Russian Mammoth sunflowers.
Sunflowers have their obvious delights but these ones we originally decided to try because of the fond memories I had of them from my time living in Russia as a missionary. I’ll never forget the first time I saw one, its huge head dangling over the side of a fence looking for all the world like it was trying to choke itself on the fence post. Russian Mammoths are visually stunning not just for their size (they get to be about 8-10 feet and their head diameter can be over 12 inches), but because of their bright, happy color and large, umbrella-like leaves.
The stalks are a good 3-4 inches in diameter when the soil is good and we have to saw them down at the end of the season; they make great kindling, because they burn fast and hot when dried. Sometimes the heads get so large that the stalk begins to bend but quite often they grow up straight and tall and cut down into orderly shapes for your kindling pile.
We discovered upon growing them that, apart from beauty, Russian Mammoth sunflowers are practical additions to the homestead in that they can produce over one thousand seeds per head. If you supplement your animal feed with sunflower seeds, and I think you should, then you’ll be sitting pretty with these Russian Mammoths. My chickens would agree; follow the link to read a quick post about one hen that really had a ball with one of our Russian Mammoths. They do take up space, I’m not going to lie, but if you have it, I believe it will be space well used. When drying them, be extra sure to flip the heads repeatedly in order to avoid mildew. For more information on drying sunflower seed heads, please visit SunflowerGuide.com.
Happy gardening! Now get out of the loo and be happy that, at least, you have one variety decided upon – this is the year of the Russian Mammoth Sunflowers!
Tessa Zundel is the homemaking, homesteading, homeschooling mother of five small children and wife to one long suffering man. She currently lives on an acre in suburban Utah with several generations of her family. She is an advanced master gardener, slowly working on becoming a master herbalist and is the founder of the Salt Lake County Seed Swap. Most days you’ll find her hauling her good natured, adventuresome children around to learn about herbs, small farm livestock, fiber and other lost arts, whole foods and home education. There’s always something being tinctured, fermented, built or milked around here – just ask the long suffering man! To find out what her current project is, pop on over to Homestead Lady and join the fun!