What’s the buzz

Sunshine Day at the Dowse on Sunday was so much fun! We spread our blankets under John Reynolds’ Titoki Gallery and helped visitors make sunshine necklaces, turn milk bottles into watering cans and paint seed packets. Lots of people had their faces and arms painted, coloured in our ‘how sunflowers grow’ page and drew their own bee designs on Project Sunshine stickers – then took home seeds and seedlings for a gold coin donation. You can check out more photos from the day here.

We also launched our special limited edition packs of red sunflower seeds. Each packet contains 12 red sunflower seeds – these plants grow tall like the Giant Russian variety and range from deep red to beautiful rusty-coloured petals. We’re selling these for $3 a packet, so please get in touch if you’d like some.

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We love hearing from people with updates about how their seeds are growing. Sam from Giant Pumpkins NZ shared us this awesome photo, along with his beautiful 4-legged friend in the background:

Jennifer in the Bay of Plenty has just finished planting out her sunflower seedlings – 47 in total. They’re going to look amazing once they’re fully-grown and flowering!

Our friend Shane sent us an update on the sunflowers that the Epuni School children planted at Carrara Park in Newtown. He says “Sunflowers and swan plants growing in Carrara Park, Newtown, not all survived but the ones that have are looking strong…thanks Kids and Julia Milne”

And Catherine headed along to see how the plants in Glover Park were doing – they’re just outside Radio Active in Wellington:

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Hataitai School in Wellington has set up their own Emerald Army gardening blog, and are encouraging every child in the school to “bring in their own reused planting box to grow their sunflower seedlings in – the wackier the better”. Check out their blog to see some of the awesome planters that have been brought in so far!

Doubtless Bay Kindergarten

Doubtless Bay Kindergarten in Northland also emailed us their blog, to let us know that their “seeds are cosy in their planter box and we are patiently waiting and watering!”

Sunflower power at Waipu School and Gladstone School

Mrs Green from Waipu Primary School in Northland sent us these gorgeous photos of her class planting out their sunflower seedlings. She says they’ll have “lots of watering and tender loving care from now on”.

We love how the sunflowers are going to grow next to the students’ awesome scarecrow! Thank you Room 11 🙂

And today we received this beautiful card from the students in room 2 at Gladstone School, in the Wairarapa. In summer, the students wear bright yellow sun hats when they’re outside and people driving past often comment on how they look like lovely sunflowers. It’s really cool knowing that our sunflower seeds are being looked after by little sunflowers!

How do your sunflowers grow?

People have been sharing photos of their potted-up sunflower seeds and seedlings with us. Here’s a glimpse of some of the Project Sunshine sunflower plants that are growing around the country.

Students at Raphael House Rudolf Steiner School in Wellington have planted their sunflower seeds – look at the beautiful seed markers they’ve added to their pots:

Denis in Auckland has planted our seeds as a home-school project:

Anna’s seeds in Wellington have just poked through the soil:

Catherine’s little seedlings are bearing up in the Wellington wind and continuing to stand tall. There are 35 seedlings planted out the front of her house in total!

Philip has planted his little bebe fleurs de soleil in his Wellington garden:

If we hop down to the South Island for a moment, we can see that Heather’s plants in Christchurch are growing really well:

Brigitte in Nelson says “… today I prepared some pots for the sunflowers… one lot for Brian, one lot for Eileen, and one lot for this hill… for the start. The bbq table is covered with trays to organise my experiments, only a small area is left for breakfast.” Just look at that amazing view in the background:

Little Earth Montessori preschool in Kapiti sent us these three beautiful photos of their seedlings:

Finally – we’re keeping a close eye on an exciting ‘sunflower growing race’ on Twitter between two Project Sunshine friends. Rob lives in Wellington and his seedlings are just starting off. Meanwhile, Leon is in the South Island’s West Coast and has a flying start with his plants – he credits his home-made “secret recipe liquid seaweed. Looks a bit like really old motor oil…”

Leon’s seeds are actually from Kings Seeds, so we’ve just popped a pack of our special Giant Russian sunflower seeds in the post, so he can grow some of ours as well. 🙂

Plant straight in the ground? Or in a pot?

You have your packet of beautiful Giant Russian sunflower seeds in your hand. Do you plant them straight in the ground, or should you first sow some seeds in pots?

At Project Sunshine, we do both planting methods, to make sure that we get the best sunflowery results!

Sowing directly in the ground
It’s pretty easy to sow your seeds directly in the ground. Before you plant, you need to make sure you’ve picked a good spot: sunflowers need at least 6 hours of sunshine a day. Once you’ve chosen a good spot, use a trowel and dig a small hole about 3cm deep, and then drop in a seed. Cover the hole again with a blanket of soil and then give it a drink of water.

Sunflowers are like people: they like to be in families and planted close together. Plant your seeds about 20cm apart. Water your seeds regularly, to make sure they don’t dry out – if the soil is kept damp, they should germinate in about 5-10 days.

Something else to bear in mind is that slugs and snails love to nibble on brand new sunflower leaves and stalks, and can quickly wipe out baby sunflower seedlings. To keep snails and slugs at bay you can place snail bait around your seeds (make sure you keep it well away from little people and pets) – otherwise you can always go out at night with a bucket and torch collect any snails that look like they’re heading towards your precious seedlings.

Planting seeds in pots
To ensure a good sunflower harvest, it is also a good idea to plant some seeds into pots. The seedlings can be transferred into the ground later on when they reach about 20cm high. There are several different pots you can choose to use and we’ve listed a few different examples below to give you an idea of the sorts of pots/containers to use. Just make sure that whatever pot you do use is fairly deep, as sunflowers send out a deep tap root. Something like an egg carton would be too shallow, for example, so go for a pot/container that has enough room to allow the sunflower to send down a good, strong root.

Make sure you use potting mix or seed-raising mix as your soil. The soil in pots needs to be light and airy for the plants to grow well. Dirt straight from the garden is too heavy and will clump down in pots. You can buy potting mix fairly cheaply from supermarkets and hardware stores. You can always make your own if you’re interested – here’s a good potting mix recipe.

Plastic pots

Plastic pots are great to use for sowing seeds – and you can use them again and again. Make sure they are nice and clean on the inside before filling them with potting mix. If you have bigger pots then you can sow a couple of seeds to each one. When the plants are big enough (about 20cm high), you’ll need to gently lift them and all of the soil out of the pots, and then plant them in the ground (Don’t plant your plastic pot in the ground!)

Take-away coffee cups

Take-away coffee cups are the perfect size for growing sunflower seedlings. Make sure your coffee cup is nice and clean, and make a small hole in the bottom for drainage (you don’t want your little pot to stay too damp, otherwise the roots will get mouldy). Then fill it with potting mix or seed-raising mix and add your seeds.

If you have a ‘bio’ or ‘eco-friendly’ coffee cup, which is designed to completely break down, then you can plant it straight into the ground when the plant is big enough, as the cardboard will disintegrate and the roots will push through the cardboard. Only do this if your coffee cup is an eco-friendly one though, as many take-away coffee cups have plastic in them, which will not break down in soil.

Peat pots
Peat pots

You can buy peat pots from gardening/hardware stores. I bought 16 from Mitre 10 for $8.00. They’re great because once your seedling is big enough, you can plant it straight in the ground along with the pot. Just make sure you don’t let the soil in them dry out.

Toilet rolls

Toilet rolls are also an inexpensive type of ‘seed starter’. By cutting four slots in a toilet roll, you can fold the flaps on the bottom – as you can see in the photo above. When you have enough toilet rolls, you can place them inside a plastic container, like an icecream container, and then fill each one with potting mix.

Be careful not to over-water the toilet roll planters, as they can get mouldy if they get too wet (update: half the ones I just planted got very mouldy on the outside, so great care needs to be taken when watering them). Because the rolls are made of cardboard, they can also be planted directly into the ground when the plants are big enough as the cardboard will quickly break down.

Folded newspaper containers

You can also make your own inexpensive seed starting containers by folding sheets of newspaper. By googling ‘how to make newspaper seedling pots’, you can find lots of different folding methods. We quite like the method shown in the youtube video below, as it is simple – all you need is a sheet of newspaper and a tall glass (you might need an adult to help you if you’re younger).

When the seedlings are big enough, the newspaper container can also be planted directly into the ground with the seedling, as the newspaper will break down quickly in the soil.

What’s the buzz

We’ve had a great week here at Project Sunshine headquarters and have been busy planting and posting lots of sunflower seeds. Check out what we’ve been up to below:

This week we’ve been really excited to send ‘seed mail’ to some of our supporters. We’ve posted seeds to the Food Forest in Waiheke Island; Waipu Primary School up north; to Sam the giant pumpkin grower in Hamilton; friends in Featherston, Waipukurau and Blenheim; locally in Wellington to friends in Khandallah; to an apartment dweller who maintains his apartment community garden in the central city; and the Brooklyn Community Orchard.

It’s great to see our sunflower seeds travelling so far, and we’ve added many of these locations to our distribution map.

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We also visited the Brooklyn Community Orchard on the weekend, to have a look at their amazing garden and orchard. We gave orchard gardeners Kelda and Mel two packets of seeds – and as well as sharing them with other people locally in the Brooklyn area, Sunday’s working bee saw Mel, Kelda and other garden volunteers working hard to prepare a special garden bed for the sunflower seeds to be sown into directly.

The orchard is springing into life at this time of year. Self-seeded borage, calendula and alyssum flowers wander prettily down the stairs, providing food for the bees, which are vital to the pollination of many of the trees in the orchard. The espaliered pear trees are covered in white blossoms and Kelda pointed out the almond tree that is already bearing fruit. We hope that our sunflowers thrive in this beautiful garden space and are keen to report back on their progress at a later date.

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On Tuesday morning, the Project Sunshine Team and an awesome band of volunteers met up in Epuni in Lower Hutt. Our focus was on a particular street, which is having a hard time because of its many boarded-up Housing NZ homes. Because we know that beautiful environments can increase our sense of well-being and create abundance in our communities, we thought we’d do a mass planting of seeds and seedlings in the area, with our volunteers and many of the local children.

We planted in the front gardens of residents, as well as in the gardens of the empty and sad houses. It was a warm, sunny day and we spent a gorgeous morning planting sunflowers, talking to our happy volunteers and hanging out with our little farmers.

You can check out more photos from the morning here. And a huge *thank you* to everyone who turned up to help on Tuesday.

We look forward to the next planting day in a few weeks, where we will add veges to these new plantings as well as more sunflowers around the neighbourhood. Keep an eye on our blog or Facebook page for more details.

Please get in touch with us if you would like to get involved in our special little project, or if you would like some of our seeds sent to you!

Sunshine Day – Tuesday 1 October

If you’re in Wellington next Tuesday, come and join us during the school holidays for a little bit of sunshine fun with our farmers.

We’re going to plant lots of sunflowers around the neighbourhood! Beautiful environments help create abundance and increase our well-being. Our farmers also get to help their little superhero friends: the bees. We’re going to meet at the Epuni School garden at 10am.

Keep an eye on our Facebook page if the weather looks like it might not be sunshiney. We’ll post an update on Tuesday morning.

Please also get in touch with us if you would like some of our sunflower seeds for community plantings. We welcome any koha that you might be able to offer – and any financial contributions will go towards set-up costs for school beehives.

Thanks to our little farmers too, for their beautiful ‘colouring in’ artwork on our posters xx

What’s the buzz

Here’s a little round-up about some of the sunflowery things that have been happening lately:

We’ve been excited to send several packets of seeds up the Kapiti Coast, thanks to Diane Turner. Diane works at Raumati South School and she sent us this ‘thank you’ photo from the children at the school. They have potted up our Giant Russian sunflower seeds and we love their beautiful seed markers! Diane has also kindly passed on many packets of seed to other schools and early childhood centres around the Kapiti Coast area, and we’re delighted to see a little trail of sunflowers work their way up the coast on our distribution map.

Diane also handed us some red ‘Evening Sun’ sunflower seeds as a koha from the children at Raumati South School. These seeds were initially gifted to the school garden by Kath Irvine of Edible Backyard. ‘Evening Sun’ seeds produce magnificent sunflowers in shades of burnt orange, red and yellow. The children saved the seeds from their flowers and are generously sharing some with us – we can’t wait to plant them and see how they bloom. Thanks again Diane for all of your wonderful sunflowery support!

Some packets of our seed are also winging their way down to Christchurch, to the Pallet Pavilion site in the Christchurch CBD. On this site, sunflowers will beautify the MakerCrate, a shipping container turned into a lab for 3D printing and children’s making workshops. Bridget, who is working with the MakerCrate project, is hoping to get students to plant the sunflower seeds in special planter boxes made out of rescued wood “to liven up the grey and the gravel that is everywhere at the moment.”

Locally, our friends at CommonSense Organics in Lower Hutt have a basket of our seed packets on their counter, and a little jar to collect donations. Please pop in and pick up a pack or two, then email us to let us know where the seeds have ended up – we’d love to hear from you!