The Mongolian giant sunflower seedling

The transplanted Mongolian giant sunflower seedling loosely staked to not damage the stem. The idea is to just keep the plant upright until the stem hardens as it grows. Mind you, I buried about a third of the stem when I transplanted it. The true leaves are also beginning to emerge here.

I’ve got a pair of Mongolian giant sunflower seedlings growing at the moment. It may sound odd to talk about plants when they’re so young, but these two seedlings are growing so fast that I just have to talk about them!

The seeds germinated within 3 days of being sown, and once the stem straightened out with the seed leaves still encased in the seed coat, the stems started growing super fast. They grew more than 10cm over two days, and the seed leaves were so big and heavy that the seedlings became top heavy and started falling over. I staked them up, but they kept growing at such a rate that I decided they needed to be planted out as soon as possible so that the tap root wouldn’t be affected and stunt the growth.

Since the stems were by now around 15cm long – and still with only the seed leaves, mind you – I buried part of the stems when I transplanted them. They still need stakes to support them, though.

Extraordinary measures had to be taken to protect these plants, too. As mentioned previously, there are any number of hazards awaiting sunflower plants, let alone such young ones. I had to use snail bait as well as a recycled PET bottle with the bottom cut off to cover each seedling. My bottle-protectors, as I like to call them, serve several purposes:

  • they protect the plants inside from big snails (it’s possible for smaller snails to climb up the sides and through the open hole at the top, which has to remain open for the supporting stake to go through – but the space is limited)
  • they protect the young plants from heavy, pelting rain
  • when the rim is pushed deeper into the soil. they seem to keep out baby snails that like to burrow through soil – because I think they only go just below the soil surface. Who’s heard of deep-burrowing snails?

The seedling as protected as I could make it, with a stake to hold it upright, a bottle to protect it from rain and hungry snails, and a temporary plant trellis to fence it off. This is gardening at its most kiasu.

The drawback of the bottle-protectors is that they retain heat on hot days and could aversely affect the plants inside with high heat and humidity. Sometimes there’s so much condensation on the inside that you can’t make out your plants! So, I usually use these protectors at night, or when it rains. It means that you have to be extra cognizant and vigilant of the weather and time of day, and so far I haven’t lost any plants to this yet. However, at the rate these seedlings are growing, I think they will outgrow the protectors in a matter of days. I have never had such a fast growing sunflower before! The first true leaves are growing out and it’s anyone’s guess what will happen before these plants reach the end of their respective journeys, however long (or short) they will be.

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