, Salem, MA


September 28, 2012

Have bulbs to plant? Don't just yet


Q: My husband planted three packages of sunflower seeds, and nothing came up. Someone said to add coffee grounds to the soil, but it was too late — is there any truth to that suggestion? Can you advise us as to what the problem may be?


I don’t think it was the fault of the three packages of seed, as long as they were used within the date on package. Sunflowers grow anywhere, even in the poorest clay soil. The summer had a very cool start — were the seeds planted too early? Early June is about right — depending on the weather — after the soil has warmed up. If you start seeds indoors, don’t start them too early as they won’t transplant successfully — four to six weeks before planting outside is enough of a head start. Grow sunflowers in all-day sun for best results, and with some shelter, such as against a building or fence for wind protection.

The addition of coffee grounds, if used in any great quantity, might make the soil so loose (think of what might happen if you added too much sand to soil) that a tall sunflower would have trouble standing upright in even a light wind unless staked. In addition, coffee grounds might acidify the soil, which a sunflower doesn’t need.

Please ask your husband to try again next year. It’s such fun to watch the “Jack and the Beanstalk”-type of daily growth — and to try to outwit the birds for the tasty seeds in the fall.

Q: We have many opened and unopened packages of seeds left over and need your advice on the best way to store them over the winter. Cool and dark, I know, but do you seal the packages in plastic or just throw the packages in a paper bag?

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