Often called Sunnys, these Greens are absolutely Delicious!
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How much you soak depends on the area you are planting - see here.
Yields vary depending on method used, temperature and technique. We could get 2-3 pounds of Sunflower Greens from an 11x22 inch tray.
Planting Medium: We have grown Greens - on soil - in Trays, for years. But, we now have three alternatives: Soilless mediums Baby Blanket, Tencel STG and Vermiculite, and organic liquid Kelp Fertilizer. Baby Blanket and Tencel are thin organic materials that you soak before planting upon. It holds moisture and are the least messy and compact mediums we know of. Vermiculite is a mineral which holds moisture supremely, dispenses added nutrients over time and in general acts much like soil. We think you should try all of them if you can - there are differences and though they are minimal you may prefer one method over the other and the only way to know for sure is to try. Instructions are pretty much the same in all cases, but where there is a difference we include purple text like this.
Soil Note: Virtually any soil will do for Greens, BUT - for Sunflower Greens we ALWAYS ADD Earthworm Castings (20-30% castings maximum in the soil mix). We know from vast experience that the crop grows more evenly, sheds hulls better, grows faster and even tastes better when worm castings are added! We use sterile bagged composted cow manure for everything else, but any sterile bagged soil will do and should cost less than $5 (for 40-50 pounds) at any garden center (depending on the general cost of living where you are of course). You can use expensive soil if you prefer - it is your choice - always. The deal is this - Greens (garden Greens anyway) are aided by the presence of the nutrient Nitrogen, in the soil. Nitrogen is the nutrient responsible for plant growth (a very good thing when growing lettuce or spinach, but too much nitrogen is bad if growing peas or tomatoes or any plant where the fruit is what we want, as opposed to the plant itself). Manures come in various strengths depending on the animal that originally produced it. Too much nitrogen will burn plants - literally burn them - hence the word HOT is used in reference to nitrogen. The higher the nitrogen content the HOTTER the manure (or fertilizer) is considered. Cow manure is the least hot - it is perfect for our needs - it supplies the growing plants with a little extra boost. Worm castings are Very Hot (worm castings are worm manure) - so we use them sparingly and only in the case of Sunflower Greens. The catch is this: Greens, Grass and Sprouts are almost all too young to benefit from nitrogen, because for the most part every seed has all the nutrients it needs to grow to the cotyledon stage - which is all we do with any of our seeds. So - though it is contradictory, it is our experience that nitrogen does help Greens and Grass. Like we always say - EXPERIMENT FOR YOURSELF. In any case - a little nitrogen can't hurt.
Tray Note: Your Planting Tray (the one with the soil or medium in it) MUST have drainage holes or slits! Nothing will grow in a medium that can not drain - that condition is commonly called "flooded". When using Baby Blanket, Tencel or Vermiculite your Planting Tray must also have drainage, but we do use the Drip Tray to hold some water at times in the growing process. (You'll see the TIP below - keep reading.)
When growing Greens: You really MUST Pre-Sprout before planting.
Note: Sunflower seeds in their shell will FLOAT. You MUST weigh them down when soaking or they won't all take up water. We use a plate that rests right on top of the seeds in the bowl or bucket in which we soak, but the easiest of all methods for the home grower is to use a jar with a lid. Put your seeds in and fill the jar to the brim with water, screw on the lid and presto - all of your seeds are submerged!
Empty the seeds into your sprouter if necessary.
Drain off the soak water.
Rinse thoroughly with cool (60-70°) water
and Drain thoroughly.
Set anywhere out of direct sunlight and at room temperature (70° is optimal) between Rinses.
The goal is to have a small root before planting.
Soil Note: The amount of soil you use is up to you. The reality is this: As your plants grow they need more and more water. They get their water from the soil. The more soil you use - the more water it can hold - the less you need to water.
Remember to add 20-30% Earthworm Castings to your base soil for the best possible crop!
Thoroughly moisten the soil. Allow puddles to dry.
Sometimes you may need to use your fingers to make sure the soil is moist all the way down to the bottom of the tray. Water, mix, water, mix, etc. Sometimes you don't have to do that.
Prepare the pad: Cut it to fit your Tray if necessary. Soak it in water or better yet, Kelp Fertilizer enriched water (You don't NEED fertilizer, but we use it when we grow without soil.) until thoroughly saturated (fold it up and push it into the liquid - use a pot or something similar to hold it). Unfold it and re-fold differently or do whatever makes sense - the goal is to get the pad THOROUGHLY soaked. Spread the wet pad across the bottom of your Planting Tray. Proceed...
Vermiculite absorbs liquid so readily and holds it so supremely that you need little of it. We use 3 Cups for an 11 x 11 inch tray and 6 Cups for an 11 x 22 inch tray. If you're using another size tray, make it 1/4 - 1/2 inch deep. Spray water evenly across the surface then spread it out as evenly as you can. We like to use Kelp Fertilizer enriched water (You don't NEED fertilizer, but we use it when we grow without soil.) so we just pour it on until thoroughly saturated and then spread it out. The amount of liquid is this: a little more than one quart for an 11 x 22 inch tray. You don't want more than a little left in the Drip Tray. Pour off what water remains above the ridges of the Drip Tray. Proceed...
Spread seeds evenly on thoroughly moistened soil/medium.
We use a lot of Sunflowers and though some literature will tell you that your seeds should not ever lay atop each other, we have found from years of experience and thousands of pounds of Greens grown that that is bunk! You will learn for yourself that some Greens (like these) produce a plant that takes up less room than the seed (sunflower seeds are in fact going to grow all the way to the top of the crop, rising on tender stalks, and be shed to display 2 lovely leaves which are the meat of the seed transformed into the plant. This is dicot seed at its most illustrative!) and so to maximize your yield your seeds must lay atop each other to some degree. The thing to watch is this: If you find mold or fungal problems in your Greens then lessen the amount of seed you plant. The hotter/more humid your climate is the more of an issue the mold/fungus is. As always, you need to adapt to your own climate and seasonal conditions. And learn as you go - this is really easy and fun stuff to learn!
Cover the planted tray
with an inverted tray (the Cover Tray) - to keep light out and moisture in.
Place in a low-light, room temperature location. 70° is always optimal but Sunflower Greens will grow very well in warmer temperatures also.
Water lightly once or twice a day.
The goal is to keep the sprouts moist until their roots bury themselves in the soil/medium - at which point your goal is to keep the soil/medium moist. Spraying the sprouts is best - whether you use a garden hose sprayer, hand sprayer or faucet sprayer - just try to make sure that every sprout gets rinsed and quenched until they bury their roots. You may use Kelp Fertilizer if you like.
Water the medium.
Once the roots are buried all you need to do is keep the medium moist - the seeds and subsequent Greens will get the moisture they need through their roots. Water from the side if possible, to prevent injuring the tender Plants.
The Soilless alternative.
Vermiculite holds water better than anything, while Tencel and Baby Blanket will dry out more quickly than soil in most circumstances, so you should either water more often or experiment with our somewhat risky trick:
Use the Drip Tray to hold some water. The roots will actually sit in this, so don't go crazy - too much can drown your plants and/or lead to fungal or mold problems. Just leave as much water as the Greens can drink in a day and then add more the following day. The amount is dependant on the climate (humidity especially) you're growing in, so you'll have to learn this for yourself. We suggest that you start with 1-2 cups in the Drip Tray. Lift the Planting Tray to see how much is left after 4, 8 and 12 hours. If the Drip Tray is dry add more water - if there is still water 24 hours later then cut back the next time you add water. Pretty simple really, and not as risky as we make it sound - it is really a time saver and produces happier healthy Greens.
Once again, we do recommend Kelp Fertilizer enriched water for soilless growers. Soil growers may use it too of course, but the soil does have some nutrients already, so it is not nearly as important for you - especially if you're already using worm castings.
Uncover your Greens
Wait 3-4 days until they are 1-2 inches tall or until they push the covering tray up (it really will do that - it is cool!)
Move to a well lit location to Green your Greens (If you use direct sunlight (a very good idea for Greens) be prepared to do more watering). Keep the soil/medium moist by watering the soil/medium daily. Watch it grow.
When the plants are about 3-4 inches tall and have green leaves - by cutting the plants just above soil or mediums surface.
Harvest should occur BEFORE "true leaves" begin to show. They are leaves which will appear from the center of the first 2 leaves. If you see a few Greens with these tiny leaves forming then get your scissors NOW - the Greens get less tasty (a bit bitter) if left go too long.
Note: Sunflower Greens will shed their hulls as their leaves open, but there are always some that are slow to shed. You can take the tray at an angle and brush your hand back and forth over the top of the Greens to help the stubborn along.
If you are going to store your crop: During the final 8-12 hours minimize the surface moisture of your Greens - they will store best in your refrigerator if they are dry to the touch. So if you water try to keep the water off the plants - just water the soil/medium.
Transfer your crop to a plastic bag or the sealed container of your choice - glass is good - and put them in your refrigerator.
Note: Sunflower Greens can produce a 2nd (smaller) crop so you may continue to water the Tray after you cut your first crop. The 2nd crop is the result of the seeds that are slower - the plants you cut will not re-grow.
* Note: If using Single Harvest Pack use the whole bag on our 5 inch tray (or similar).
1/4-1/3 cup for a 5" square Tray.
1-1 1/2 cup for an 11" square Tray.
2-3 Cups for an 11 inch x 22 inch Tray.
The surest way to know what amount of seed to use: Spread dry seed on the bottom of your sprouter so that the seed is spread evenly but densely.
Once again: We use a lot of Seeds and though some literature will tell you that your seeds should not ever lay atop each other, we have found from years of experience and thousands of pounds of Greens grown that that is bunk! The thing to watch is this: If you find mold or fungal problems in your Greens then lessen the amount of seed you plant. The hotter/more humid your climate is the more of an issue the mold/fungus is. As always, you need to adapt to your own climate and seasonal conditions. And learn as you go - this is really easy and fun stuff to learn!
Greens grown from Sunflowers are surprisingly delicious. If you don't feel you know us well enough to believe it, just look under your bird feeder in summertime for a sorta thick stemmed plant about 4-6" tall, with 2 leaves on top. Pick it off above the soil and eat it ..... See? Great aren't they?!
We have claimed for years, that Sunnys need to be planted on soil with 20-30% Earthworm Castings to achieve their full (awesome!) potential in flavor and vigor, but we do have soilless alternatives! Soilless mediums called Baby Blanket, Tencel, and the amazingly retentive Vermiculite, when used in conjunction with a liquid fertilizer, like Kelp Fertilizer, produces wonderful Greens without the mess of soil. Every plant we've grown using this soilless method has turned out wonderfully, though Sunnys still seem a bit tastier to us when grown using the conventional soil method. That may be due to our hard headedness, but in any case - Sunnys grown with either of these methods works very well and produces a very delicious crop.
We do not like the flavor of hydroponic (grown using nothing but water) Sunnys - we find them virtually tasteless and quite watery - but - if you just don't care what we think (good for you!) and you are determined to grow these with nothing but water, then go to Val at Go Green - she is the meister of hydroponic Greens. Tell her those Sproutpeople sent you!
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For Baby Blanket, Tencel, Kelp Fertilizer, Vermiculite, Spray Bottles and Earthworm Castings, visit our Odds & Ends page.
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San Francisco, CA 94124
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Back in 2001 we were still using the phone. One day I was talking to a long-time customer while pushing my (then 4 year old) daughter on the swing in our backyard (this is what a mom n' pop business is like on the internet). It dawned on me that my priorities were severely messed up, so I stopped using the phone. I love to talk and I love to help, but my family would never see me if I picked up the phone again, and that's just wrong don't you think?!
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