Thursday, November 03, 2011

Ten Reasons to Grow Sunflowers

10 Reasons to grow sunflowers

  1. Attractive appearance

    Sunflowers add beauty to your garden and are a delight to the eye.

  2. Pollination

    Sunflowers attract and provide food for pollinators such as bees and butterflies, increasing the yields of your crops.

  3. Birds

    If you do not cover the heads of the sunflowers with paper bags when they are maturing, you will get to see birds such a goldfinches performing brave acrobatic feats to pluck seeds from the sunflowers. Planting sunflowers is a great way to feed the birds.

  4. Decontaminate Toxic Soil

    Sunflowers can remove many toxic metals from the soil, such as lead, arsenic and uranium. This process is known as bioremediation. To clean the soil, grow the sunflowers, harvest all parts of the plant and bring them to a proper facility for disposal. Sunflowers were even used to remove cesium-137 and strontium-90 from a pond near the Chernobyl disaster. Plant sunflowers if soil testing reveals that your soil has unacceptably high levels of toxic metals.

  5. Support for climbing plants

    If the sunflowers are given a head start by 1-2 weeks, they can be grown as support for vines such as pole beans and cucumbers.

  6. Edible seeds

    The seeds from the sunflower can be harvested to eat as a snack. Cover the sunflower heads with a paper bag when they are nearing maturity. This will protect your crop from being eaten by the birds.

  7. Easy to grow

    Sunflowers are among the most simple and easy flower to grow. They only require 6-8 hours of full sun and well-drained soil to grow successfully, and can be grown in most regions of the world.

  8. Allelopathic to weeds

    All parts of the sunflower plant emit chemicals that are harmful to many species of weeds, but will not harm most other food crops.

  9. Giant Sunflowers

    If you want an impressive garden, certain varieties of sunflowers, grown in ideal conditions, will reach truly impressive heights. The world record for the tallest sunflower was over 25 feet tall.

  10. Colors

    Sunflowers come in more colors than just the classic yellow. Orange and red varieties are also available. Sunflowers range in color from a very dark, nearly black burgundy to a very pale, nearly white yellow. Bicolor variations also occur, such as red on the outside of the petals with a ring of yellow near the inside of the petals.

Did you know? A single sunflower is not just one flower, but 1-2 thousand flowers joined together.

The genome of the sunflower contains slightly more genes than the human genome.

Monday, October 24, 2011

A Successful Sproutfest: A Food Day Event

Steamed kale being served at Sproutfest 2011
Attendees enjoy vegetarian chili, grass-fed beef chili, pasta with cabbage, sweet potatoes, whole wheat bread and pumpkin cookies.
Celebrating the harvest with some local apples.

Tonight sprout held Sproutfest, our annual autumn dinner, featuring local, seasonal foods. The meal incorporated beans, pumpkins and kale from the garden, along with other produce from local farms. Some of the selections included beef from Four Mile River Farm in Old Lyme, CT; sweet potatoes and onions from Philomel Gardens in Preston CT; cheese from Neighborly Farms of Vermont; wheat from Still River Farm in Coventry, CT; apples from Raven Hill Orchard in Maine; and butter from Wildowsky Dairy in Lisbon, CT. The meal also incorporated local eggs, maple syrup and cabbage. Many students and faculty came to the event to eat food and learn more about the sprout garden. The event was put on in collaboration with Food Day.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Gourds Galore

A small gourd harvested from the garden, more photos to come soon of some of the other gourds.

Today Sprout, together with the help of the Conn College groundskeeping crew, harvested 57 gourds from the garden. Gourds, also known as calabash, have traditionally been used as water jugs, water dippers and bowls. They are now also used for decoration and to make bird houses. Gourds can be carved or painted to create artwork. The Annual Gourd Festival celebrates the many beautiful works of art that have been made with gourds. Looking at the gourds harvested from the garden, I can't help but feel impressed by their smooth, unique rounded shapes and by the different patterns and shades of green that they have on their skin. Many of the gourds are also rather large! Over the next few months, the gourds will dry and become hollow, and can then be used for bowls, containers and/or bird houses. The gourds are natural works of art that can be cherished for years. They will be for sale at harvestfest.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Fall Semester So Far

A meal of fried green tomatoes and mashed purple potatoes, all harvested from the Sprout! garden.

Fall Harvest: Beans, tomatoes, a baby carrot, rosemary and corn from the Sprout! garden.
A miniature decorative pumpkin from the garden.
Purple potatoes and the last of the cucumbers harvested from the garden.
This area was where the squash, cucumber and sunflowers were growing. It has been cleared out to make way for the fall crops. Soon after this picture was taken, kale, spinach, lettuce, broccoli and cabbage were planted in this area and have now sprouted already.

The Semester So Far:
So far this semester we have had three successful workdays and one farmer's market. We have cleared out the debris from our summer crops, and planted some fall/winter crops. These fall/winter crops include kale, spinach, cabbage and broccoli. We also planted black seeded simpson, a famously cold-tolerant variety of lettuce. We have had abundant harvests of heirloom shell beans, potatoes, miniature pumpkins and winter squash. The hardshell gourds are ripening and drying on the vine and we can expect to harvest many of those soon.
The first hard frost is coming very soon, so we will be setting up a cold frame this week to protect the tender young vegetables from the frost. A cold frame is a miniature temporary greenhouse to help established crops through the cooler fall and winter months, thus extending the short Connecticut growing season. We are building ours out of bamboo poles, rocks, and clear plastic.
Our big event this semester, Sproutfest! is happening in just two weeks on October 24th. We are having the event on National Food Day. We will be serving a local dinner on campus, and giving presentations about the garden. The dinner will feature local produce, including hot soup made with beans and squash from the garden.

Friday, August 26, 2011

This week's harvest and farmer's market

This is a peach tree that I planted with the help of fundraising from the farmer's market.
Heirloom corn ripening on the stalk. A bean plant is growing up the corn stalk.
This method of growing beans, corn and squash together is called the three sisters.
View of the garden from above.
One day's harvest of cucumbers and yellow squash from the garden.

Hello everyone, I'm Zoe, sprout garden manager and club president. I have been working in the garden and hosting weekly farmer's markets in CRO all summer long. This week was very fruitful for the sprout garden. I sold dozens of cucumbers and tomatoes, along with a few pumpkins, yellow squash, and zucchini in CRO yesterday. Afterwards I sold 12 pounds of cucumbers and 13 pounds of tomatoes to Harris. Earlier this week I sold 14 pounds of tomatoes to Harris, along with a few more cucumbers. The garden is producing extremely well. The weeds are getting a bit out of hand and I am looking forward to more students arriving on campus soon who can lend a hand in the garden. Hurricane Irene is fast approaching, so later today I will head out to the garden to harvest as much as I can before the storm comes. I hope that there will still be something of a garden left after the storm, though I can't have much hope that the sunflowers will stay up. Above are some pictures of the garden from the summer.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Events yo!

Here are some quick little events updates in the life of Sprout...

Our first event of this semester will probably be the first weekend in April. Dana H. Freyer founder of the Global Partnership for Afghanistan will be speaking about her organization and about the impact of war on the environment in Afghanistan.

Our second event is a Farmer's Cow ice cream tasting and presentation about the Farmer's Cow cooperative and how local agriculture benefits local economies! This will be taking place in Coffee Grounds (because they order from the Farmer's Cow). We are still working on a finalized date with the guy at Farmer's Cow, but thus far, the date is tentatively the second weekend of April (8th or 9th).

The third event is Earth Fest, April 16! Sprout normally oversees the purchasing of food for the picnic. This year, we want to have a workshop on simple gardening! We are expecting to have a local farmer or Art Lerner (or both) come and do a simple demonstration of planting potted plants or something along those lines...

These events are open to the community and we are totally open to suggestions for other awesomely Sprouty events!

Spring garden planning is underway! We should be seeding plants in the green house relatively soon, which means it's seed-choosin' time!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

It's been a while

Hello loyal Sprout followers!
Firstly, allow myself to introduce...myself:
My name is Lizzy, and I have been deemed official blog writer for Sprout.
Secondly, we are all so terribly sorry for not updating the blog on a frequent basis..or at all really. But THAT means lots of fun updates for ya'll!
Let's get down to the goooood stuff...

Sprout had a pretty busy fall semester. Our fall harvest this academic year was mostly a LOT of tomatoes harvested at weekly workdays. In addition to the tomato explosion, we grew sunflowers, swiss chard, kale, nasturtium- all of which was sold to dining services and at a trial farmers market in our student center.

For Harvest Fest we sold Zoe’s homemade bread, homemade salsa, Celia’s crabapple butter, Anne’s delicious heart-shaped apple tarts and some of our kale and chard. It was a yummy hit!

At the end of November, Sprout hosted the Beehive Collective, a totally volunteer-based organization that uses art to speak out against issues of social and environmental injustices.

[ check 'em out>> ]

In preparation for the blustery winter days that I just cannot get enough of (sarcasm may be applied liberally...), Eli constructed woodframe raised beds for our hardy winter greens. We have found this to be an improvement over our past use of protective insulating plastic cold frames...the plastic covers, my friend, are blowin' in the wind...The garden is currently buried in a bit of snow, but we are making plans for what deliciousness the warmer seasons will bring!

'Tis all for now, ladies and germinating seeds. Until next time,