Grow Your Own Sunflower Shoots

Of all the microgreens and shoots out there, sunflower shoots may just be king of the windowsill.  Easy to grow, quick to mature, a snap to harvest and totally nutritious!  If you haven’t tried growing your own sunflower shoots, it may be the new winter food you have been looking for.  What exactly are sunflower shoots?

Sunflower shoots are the young, edible seedlings of sunflower plants.  Within a weeks time, a batch of sunflower shoots are ready.  A nutritional powerhouse, they are full of vitamins, minerals, amino acids and protein.  They are also considered a complete protien.   Check out the impressive nutritional information at Markito Nutrition.  As for taste, they are crunchy with a pleasant nutty flavor.  They almost have a succulent quality about them.  In the article A Salad’s Surprise Shot of Flavor, chef Robert Newton says, “They taste like a sunflower seed, kind of, but with chlorophyll.”  I would have to agree!

Start with some sunflower seeds.

It is said that you can use black oil sunflower seeds for growing.  If food safety is a concern, purchase seed from a reputable sprout company that tests for food-borne pathogens.  The Sprout House is a good company.  I’m sure there are many sellers out there.  At Savvy Gardening, they recommend a 12 hours soak for the seeds, then another rinse and soak.  I’ve had great result without even soaking but it would probably speed things along.

Planting shoots and microgreens.

Sunflower shoots can be grown in a plant pot, seed starting tray or a recycled container.  The roots are shallow.  Just make sure you have a few inches of soil.  Use a food safe growing mix.  No fertilizer is necessary.  Press down the soil and scatter the seeds thickly across the surface of the soil.  Sprinkle additional soil over seeds.  Some growers just firmly place another tray over the seeds to block the light for a few days.  For the home grower, covering the seeds with dirt works just fine.

They are growing!

Within a few days, your little shoots will be reaching for the sun to become a thick sunflower shoot forest!  You can even have a few batches going at once for a continual harvest.

Sunflower shoots emerging!

As your shoots grow, pick off the seed coats to allow them to open fully.

Sunflower forest, ready for cutting.

When the shoots are at 4″ or so, cut them with scissors.  Always wash shoots in cool water and store in a bag.  They will last when stored in this way for a few weeks.  Don’t allow them to grow beyond the shoot stage.

Give Shoots a thorough washing.

Sunflower shoots make a fantastic plant to grow with children.  The seeds are big enough for even the tiniest of hands to grasp and they love watching the fat seedlings rise up through the soil.  Getting my son to even try them is another story all together!

Salad garnished with shoots and microgreens!

Typical uses for sunflower shoots are salads, sandwiches, smoothies and can be used as a garnish.  But, think beyond this.  Try them as a substitute for bean sprouts.  Throw them last minute into a stir-fry.  Use them anywhere you think they will compliment the meal.  Sunflower shoots are an excellent way to get through the winter and a wonderful addition to your winter windowsill garden!

For more information on shoots and microgreens, go to my articles Easily Grow Windowsill Microgreens or Grow Pea Shoots in 4 Super Easy Steps.  Thank you for joining me this week at Everlongardener and happy growing!

Hilary|Everlongardener

 

Indoor Gardening: Forcing Bulbs

Does anyone else remember seeing Polaroid snaps of a potted amaryllis bulb in their grandmothers photo albums?  The picture of that glorious annual event of the opening of the amaryllis!  Why not carry on the indoor gardening tradition of forcing bulbs!

Flowering bulbs seem to be everywhere in fall and early winter.  Every grocery store and green house has a display this time of year.  Of course, we could never live up to the Victorians passion for forcing bulbs or any of the gardening that they did, for that matter.  Still, plant lovers everywhere bring these dormant orbs into their homes every year just to see their vibrant flowers.  The dramatic, the colorful and the scented!

Does anyone have a photo like this?

Special Care

A few of the bulbs that can be forced need to be put through a short winter cycle before being potted up.  This requires extra time and an extra step.  One neat thing about this is that you can schedule bloom time by planting so many weeks ahead.  Need potted flowers blooming for a special occasion?  With some advanced planning, you could have quite a display.

Tulip bulb.

Bulbs such as tulips, daffodils and crocus need this kind of conditioning.  A cool place such as a refrigerator or a garage that is above freezing would be ideal.  Then, when the prescribed ‘winter’ is up, plant your bulbs in any pots that you like.  This way you could have some blooms coming and going through the winter.  A whole bulb garden could be assembled with a variety of species coming all at once.  The article How To Force Bulbs has some elegant suggestions and a wealth of advice.

Easy Options

I’ve chosen to grow just a few types for my table this year and yes, these require very little input!  Some bulbs do not need any special attention before planting.  They can be purchased and planted with very little care.  Amaryllis bulbs come in endless shades of red, pink and white.  They are quick to grow and make a huge impact.  You can usually pick up a kit for around $5.  Paper whites, a member of the narcissus family, can be grown in an decorative bowl filled with stones.  Hyacinths can be grown in pots, vases or even a special hyacinth vase that comes with some kits.  Upon opening the package, add water just up to the roots of the bulb.  Place in a cool (around 50 degrees F) location for 10 weeks.  Check on the water level occasionally.  Hyacinths are very heavily scented and may not be for everyone but they are fantastic bloomers!

Paper White bulbs.

To get started, assemble some unoccupied plant pots.  You will need some clean rocks and potting soil.  Choose a few pots that will accommodate the bulbs sizes.

Assemble some pots…

The bulbs do not like to be buried.  Amaryllis like to be about 2/3 to half way out.  The paper whites can be simply nestled into the stones.

Adding some moss to the amaryllis bulb.

A little stroll in the woods and you can pick up all of the embellishments that you need to dress up your bulbs.  Moss, twigs, dried flowers, pine cones, whatever you can find!

Paper Whites like a rocky place to grow!

Now, I have heard of adding alcohol to your bulbs to stunt the growth and give stronger stems.  I haven’t tried this yet but it sounds intriguing!  Go to http://blogs.cornell.edu/hort/2009/11/10/pickling-your-paperwhites/ for more information.  Water bulbs regularly and stake them as needed.  If you feel like fertilizing, go ahead.  If not, they will probably be fine.  In summer, an amaryllis bulb can be relocated to a vacant spot in your perennial garden, then potted up again before frost.  Paper whites and other bulbs can be moved to the garden for future blooming but they may take a few years to really be impressive again.  Hyacinth will probably not amount to anything if replanted because flowering takes so much life out of it.

A Simple Table Scape

Ever need to dress up your dining room table for a special occasion?  Maybe you just want to bring a bit of the outdoors inside this winter.  Making a nature inspired table scape featuring your freshly potted bulbs is a exceptional way to do just that!

Paper whites all potted up.

I picked out this simple table runner made of cotton.  After placing the pots on the table, I decided to use the hydrangeas that I dried earlier in the fall.

Found  items look so natural!

Moss and lichen from the forest floor covers up the dirt around the amaryllis bulb.  Graceful beech branches and fern seed pods add just enough interest.  We scavenged acorns and pine cones too!

Hyacinth bulb.

Notice the delicate mauve-pink of the papery covering of the hyacinth bulb.  It’s so good for your brain to see green, living things this time of year.

By adding dried flowers and candles, you have a gorgeous table scape!

It really is a blank canvas!  Add any colors or plants that you like.  Have a theme.  Candles are a nice addition, just make sure to keep them away from dry plant matter when lit.

Nature inspired table scape!

As your bulbs grow, your table scape will really take shape!  Your table is your canvas, just get out and see what you can find for complementary natural items.  If you are the crafty type, you will have no trouble coming up with something outstanding.  I hope that you can make the most of your forced bulbs, whether purchased or received as a hostess gift.  If you have more than two pots, why not create a multi-seasonal table scape?  Your dining room will look stately and stunning!

Things are getting pretty cold around here but I find that indoor growing, such as forcing bulbs, can be good winter therapy.  What do you like to grow indoors this time of year?  Drop me a line below in comments, I would love to hear from you!  Thank you for your interest in Everlongardener this week!

Hilary|Everlongardener

 

Making Your Own Terrarium

If you haven’t noticed, it seems that people have really become obsessed with terrariums in recent years.  You can find pictures of them inhabiting all shapes and sizes of containers.  Fish tanks, apothecary jars, wine glasses.  You can even use an old lightbulb!

I’m not really sure that they ever really went out of style. With beginnings way back in the 1800’s, growing under or in glass came about by accident.  I knew they were loved by the Victorians but what I read was really fascinating.  On the site http://terraruims.net I found some history of a Dr. Nathaniel Ward, a London physician who discovered that his ferns grew so much better in jars.  The high levels of pollution from nearby factories was too hard on the plants so Dr. Ward used fern cases or Wardian cases.  With this invention, specimens could be brought from exotic locations and preserved during the voyage.  This obviously introduced tropical plants to the masses.  Soon every self-respecting home could have their own terrarium!

All the materials for our terrarium!

Earlier this winter I was feeling the need for green plants.  We haven’t had a terrarium in a while so I thought it would be a fun winter project for my four year old and me.  We already had a large glass fish bowl for a container. This was a great excuse to visit our local greenhouse for a few plants.  Any excuse to be immersed in a warm, tropical environment!  Of course my son wanted to buy everything but we only really needed four or five plants.  I was looking for color, texture, height and something to creep along as a ground cover.

My helpers tools and decorations.
My helpers tools and decorations.

You will need at the very least a glass container, soil, gravel, plants, moss, tools and decorative items of your choice.  Many instructions call for adding activated charcoal.  This may sound a bit unnecessary but it can help with toxins, odors, chemicals and drainage issues that can harm the plants over time.  In the end I opted to not buy the charcoal.  I guess I’m too cheap!

Place small stones in bottom.
Place small stones in bottom.
Adding the soil.
Adding the soil.

We placed a few inches of stones in the bottom of our glass fishbowl, then added some soil.  For the plants we picked a Prayer plant, a variegated broadleaf plant with reddish undersides,  a ‘White Rabbit’s Foot’ fern, a Monkey plant which has pink flowers and my favorite, Baby’s Tears.  I could bore you with all the correct names but I will spare you.  Just pick what you like and plants with similar light requirements.

Planting time.
Planting time.

Place the plants where you want them and secure them with more soil.  Gently add water.  Now it’s time to personalize your little world!  Shells, rocks, marbles, driftwood…you name it.  Whatever you want it to look like.  Elegant or quirky.  We of course chose the dinosaurs to live in our little miniature tropical environment.  Since the terrarium will have its own water cycle, try not to over water but be careful it doesn’t dry out.  Trim any dead leaves to keep your plants looking their best.

The completed terrarium!
The completed terrarium!

There are so many resources out there to find inspiration for your terrarium.   Simply type in the word ‘terrarium’ and you will find a ton of info.    Pinterest was loaded with detailed how too’s and lots of beautiful pictures.

This was a great little winter project and we are still enjoying our spherical garden.  What is your favorite indoor winter gardening thing to do?  Feel free to leave a comment.  Subscribe via email, follow me on Instagram, Pinterest or Bloglovin!  Thanks for joining me this week!

Hilary|Everlongardener

 

 

 

 

How To Grow Microgreens in 4 Easy Steps

You may have had them.  You may have just only heard of them.  You might think they are only served in some restaurant that you can’t afford.  I’m here to tell you my friend, that you can grow microgreens with ease in your own home.  No fancy equipment.  No greenhouse needed.  Just dirt, a container, seeds, water and sun!  Yes, you can grow microgreens in 4 easy steps!

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Although people have been growing microgreens for some time now, it seems the term keeps popping up everywhere.  From something to throw in your smoothie to a side salad to go along with a choice cut of beef, micro greens have become very popular.  There are a few reasons for this: 1. Easy to grow.  2. Harvest time is just ten days or so.  3. Small seedlings contain mega amounts of nutrients.  Have I convinced you yet?

Basic items to grow some microgreens.
Basic items to grow some microgreens.

This is the method that I used.  I saved a few mushroom containers, about two inches high.  Drainage holes didn’t seem to be an issue for such a short growing period but that’s up to you.

Add soil to container.
Add soil to container.

I placed some growing mix in the containers and did a broadcast of seeds covering them lightly with about 1/8″ of soil.  In a recent trip to my local garden center I picked up a packet of micro greens mix.  Just a nice mixture of seeds chosen for color and taste.  You can easily just mix up some seeds from any that you have and it will all work out fine.  Now it seems time to gently water your containers of microgreen seeds.  Keep soil moist but not too wet.  In two days the seeds should be pushing up through the soil.  It’s really quite exciting how quickly these guys come up.  After about ten days or so the greens should be ready to be cut.  Scissors work well.  Don’t feel that you need to cut them all that day.  The harvest can be spread out over a few days.  I actually use one container at a time.

Tiny seedling pushing through the dirt!
Tiny seedling pushing through the dirt!

After cutting the greens I noticed a small amount of grit so I put them in my salad spinner for a bath.  They held up quite well.  I used my smaller spinner because of the smaller holes.  Once dry, you can place them in a plastic bag or airtight container and store in your crisper for quite a while.  Water your containers again, you may get a second or third harvest!

Micro greens ready for cutting!
Micro greens ready for cutting!

There are quite a few types of seeds that work great for this.  In my research I came up with kale, spinach, peas, radish, lettuce, beets and chard to name a few. The mixture that I used had a lot of these in it.  You can even add herbs.  I think that a handpicked mixture might be better but it was fun to see how the packet turned out.

Microgreens used on top of a salad.
Microgreens used on top of a salad.

I’ve read a few articles on the benefits of adding microgreens to your diet and the stats seem pretty impressive.  Unlike sprouts micro greens need soil and sunlight.  They contain up to 4-6 times the nutrients of full grown plants.  They are high in vitamin C, E, Beta carotene and some have protein, all depending on where, when and what type of soil used.  I’d love to hear your feedback and/or experiences with growing microgreens.  Feel free to leave a comment, I’d love to hear from you.  Follow me on Facebook, Pinterest or Instagram @everlongardener.  Thanks for reading my gardening blog!

Hilary|Everlongardener