Monday, March 31, 2014

Protecting Sunflower Seedlings From Digging Critters

What options do you have to protect an exposed outside sunflower garden from digging critters? Would you believe, this had been a topic of discussion with a friend of mine, Lynn, at Baileys Powerhouse Gym. We got to talking one morning during our workouts about my sunflower garden. Lynn was concerned that the recent cold snap might have harmed the little sunflower seedlings.

I told Lynn, the little seedlings had been doing fine thus far with the bit of temperature swings; but, they weren't doing so well with all the critters digging. She suggested that I try some wire mesh screening to cover them. Discussing that idea, I offered how I could attach the screening to some boards and possibly rig up a device at the side of the garden to swing the boarded screening out of the way. Afterwards, I Googled Lowe's and wire mesh screen to see what screening might cost. It seemed reasonable where I could buy a roll of some screening for under $40.

The weekend was slowly evaporating and I hadn't made it to Lowe's. Sunday evening, I decided that I would try something else.

COVERING THE SUNFLOWER SEEDLINGS

Covering Sunflower Seedlings With Lowe's Liners 033014
Covering Sunflower Seedlings With Lowe's Liners ~ JaguarJulie
Photo Taken: March 30, 2014
I had a number of the tan-colored liners from Lowe's that I had saved from my many trips for there for mulch, dirt, plants and stones. Using one double-length liner, along with four separate liners, I placed them over the sunflower seedlings and anchored the sides with brick pavers from the edge of the sunflower garden plot. It took about twenty minutes to get these in place and affix the fourteen brick pavers to keep the liners from blowing away.

Covering Sunflower Seedlings With Lowe's Liners 033014
Covering Sunflower Seedlings With Lowe's Liners ~ JaguarJulie
Photo Taken: March 30, 2014
Under my garden bench, I placed the two rectangular flower pots with sunflower seedlings along with one round flower pot. It only took one Lowe's liner to cover those pots. When I finished up, and took the photos, it was nearly 8pm. Thank goodness for Daily Savings Time as it was just starting to get dark.

There was one additional action I took to protect the covered sunflower seedlings. I had a fresh can of Ant and Roach spray which has a pretty noxious smell. Yeah, I know, probably not eco-friendly! Anyways, I started spraying the outside perimeter of the sunflower garden plot and then sprayed around the pots under the bench. Then, I was ready to come inside and hope for the best.

During the night and early morning, I resisted coming out to the patio to take a look with my flashlight. In the morning, at 7am, I looked out. So far so good!

NEXT MORNING

Covered Sunflower Seedlings With Lowe's Liners 033114
Covered Sunflower Seedlings With Lowe's Liners Next Morning ~ JaguarJulie
Photo Taken: March 31, 2014
TIME OUT FEEDING THE CATS

Feeding the Black Tom Cat 033114Feeding the Orange Tom Cat 033114
After preparing two separate bowls of food for two tom cats at my back door, and feeding Boots the cat inside, I came outside to survey the garden. I snapped a photo of the black tom cat before I removed the Lowe's liners; the photo of the orange tom cat was taken after removing the Lowe's liners.

It surely seemed that the Lowe's liners had discouraged any digging critters from doing their nasties in my sunflower seedlings. I really think the Ant and Roach spray helped.

ADDING SOLAR LIGHTS TO SUNFLOWER GARDEN

I decided to try another precaution by adding some solar lights to my sunflower garden. This morning, I stopped by my Big Lots and found some solar lights. There were plenty of single lights and plenty of packages from which to pick. I opted for the Wilson & Fisher 8 pack for $20.00. That is $2.50 per light assembly.

Wilson & Fisher 8 Pk Solar Path Light Set - Bronze Finish 033114
Wilson & Fisher 8 Pk Solar Path Light Set - Bronze Finish
Photo Taken: March 31, 2014
The instructions for assembling each of these solar lights was pretty straightforward. Only thing, I don't recommend assembling these after you've just gotten a manicure! The one step that I seemed to not find had to do with the little crystal like plugs which I figured out had to snap into the bottom of the top piece, and would be inside the crystal light.

I pulled out all the pieces and parts, with like pieces together. Next, I looked at the photo assembly instructions. Looked pretty easy! Once I had 8 solar lights put together, I brought them outside and decided where to place them. It is recommended not to be within 5 feet of each other which was perfect for my 10 ft. x 16 ft. garden plot. I spaced out the four lights on each of the long edges of the garden, a little more than 5 ft. apart.

Adding 8 Solar Lights to Sunflower Garden Perimeter 033114
Adding 8 Solar Lights to Sunflower Garden Perimeter ~ JaguarJulie
Photo Taken: March 31, 2014
I should have gotten the 10 pack of solar lights. There were singles available, so I plan on returning to Big Lots to purchase two more, provided these work adequately. I want to add one light on the middle edge of the two sides.

Tonight, I will once again add the Lowe's liners just to be safe. I'm hoping the lights will have gotten a good enough charge on the lithium batteries to light up. It was recommended to adequately charge the batteries with 8 hours of sunlight. I got the solar light assemblies out by 2pm. So, I will be short an hour or two. Let's hope for light! And, let's hope we deter the critters from digging up my sunflower seedlings!

P.S. Want to try some solar lights for your outside garden or pathway? I looked on Amazon and found two reasonable 8 pack sets:
  1. Garden Creations JB5629 Solar-Powered LED Accent Light, Set of 8
  2. Moonrays 91381 Payton Solar-Powered Plastic LED Path Light, 8-Pack, Black

Protecting Sunflower Seedlings From Digging Critters - Take Two!

I found that using the Lowe's liners that it kept the digging critters out of my sunflower garden; however, I was concerned that the sunflower seedlings weren't getting enough air. I had thought about rigging up some screen wire mesh with boards. Shopping at Big Lots, I got another idea and purchased a roll of 3 ft. x 45 ft. Master Gardner Weed Shield Landscape Fabric for $6.00. Read more about my use of the Master Gardner Weed Shield Landscape Fabric to protect my sunflower seedlings from those digging critters!

That size of roll actually was tailor-made for my garden. I cut three lengths from the 45 ft. long roll and positioned them to cover the four rows of sunflower seedlings.

Weed Barrier Cloth Protecting Sunflower Seedlings ~ JaguarJulie
Weed Barrier Cloth Protecting Sunflower Seedlings ~ JaguarJulie
Photo Taken: April 6, 2014 - 8:53am
That is a photo in the morning right before I remove the weed barrier cloth. Nearest to the front, I am able to pull edges of the black cloth to anchor them below the brick pavers. In other strategic positions along the length of the cloth, I add brick pavers to hold the cloth in place and to keep any critter from crawling underneath. Thus far, it has been eight days of protection with Lowe's liners for the first two days and then the weed barrier cloth for six days.

Weed Barrier Cloth and Lowe's Liner Drying ~ JaguarJulie
Weed Barrier Cloth and Lowe's Liner Drying ~ JaguarJulie
Photo Taken: April 6, 2014 - 9:59am
I pull up the cloth one length at a time and fold it in half with the downside inward. Then, I place the cloth on the brick patio next to the house. I place each length, folded in half, on top of each other for drying. I've been still using the Lowe's liner to cover the three flower pots when I place them under the wrought iron bench.

This morning, when I picked up the cloth, I was a good hour later than usual. I'm usually removing the cloth from the sunflower seedlings by 7:30 to 8:00 am. This morning, it was approximately 8:55am. It rained quite a bit the previous evening; however, the cloths came up a lot easier than previous mornings when it hadn't rained. And, they were relatively dry and free of the morning dew. As the cloths go down around 7:30 pm, the seedlings are covered for a good twelve hours.

I honestly think the sunflower seedlings have benefited from being covered with the weed barrier cloth. They are able to "breathe" and probably get a tiny bit of a hot house effect from the cloth.

Sunflower Garden Four Rows of Seedlings AND Two Cats ~ JaguarJulie
Sunflower Garden Four Rows of Seedlings AND Two Cats ~ JaguarJulie
Photo Taken: April 6, 2014 - 9:56am
Here is an up to date photo of the sunflower seedlings. You also get a little glimpse of my adjoining daisy garden along with the orange tabby and black male tom cats. The day before, I refreshed the daisy garden with three bags of 100% cypress mulch. Oh, a while back, I painted that concrete slab with a medium gray concrete paint. You can also see that I have added two more solar lights to the perimeter of the sunflower garden.

That one row, to the far right, is really prospering with the number of sunflower seedlings. I haven't yet attempted to thin them out and will wait to consider replanting some elsewhere. It seems the two rows to the far left will not need to be thinned out.

Protecting Sunflower Seedlings From Digging Critters - Take Three!

On April 14th, I returned to my local Big Lots to buy another roll of the Master Gardner Weed Shield Landscape Fabric! I really liked how the sunflower seedlings seemed to be prospering from this nightly covering.

Weed Barrier Cloth From Second Roll Covering Sunflower Seedlings ~ JaguarJulie
Weed Barrier Cloth From Second Roll Covering Sunflower Seedlings ~ JaguarJulie
Photo Taken: April 14, 2014
As I was rolling out the new roll to cover the tallest row of sunflower seedlings, I opted to make the length a little longer. Too bad I couldn't make it wider to handle the extra growth! You can see how a gently placed the landscape fabric over the tiny plants.

Weed Barrier Cloth From Second Roll Covering Sunflower Seedlings ~ JaguarJulie
Weed Barrier Cloth From Second Roll Covering Sunflower Seedlings ~ JaguarJulie
Photo Taken: April 14, 2014
The evening of April 14th was the first time that I used four lengths of the landscape fabric to cover my four rows of tiny plants.

So, tell me ... have you ever covered your emerging seedlings to protect them from digging critters? I wrote a product review on the Master Gardner Weed Shield Landscape Fabric. Have you tried weed barrier cloth for any other applications than keeping the weeds out? I'm honestly thinking that the cloth has other possibilities! Maybe a cover-up from the sun for the beach? That is, if you like the color black. I do!

Why not try Master Gardner 413 3x100 Landscape Fabric for yourself! Oh, and check out the next blog post in this series, Sunflower Seedlings at Twenty-Three Days!

Critters Digging Up My Sunflower Seedlings

There is nothing worse than having some critter come into your sunflower garden and create havoc amidst your little sunflower seedlings. Bright and early the morning of March 22nd, I saw the first evidence of some digging critter in my sunflower garden. It attacked my first row of seedlings with a vengeance. Then, the very next morning of March 23rd, I found it had returned. The digging style was the same! I am guessing that this was a raccoon.

Sunflower Seedlings Dug Up March 22 2014 Sunflower Seedlings Dug Up March 23 2014

In my previous blog post, Sunflower Seedlings Emerging in Six Days, I shared more information and photos about the sunflower seedlings coming up and how this critter was doing its best to cull the crop, so to speak.

This is my second year of growing a sunflower garden from seed. In my first garden, I had plenty of experience with insects and critters in my sunflower garden. However, I had no experience with critters digging up the little seedlings.

The digging critter came back three more nights, but didn't look as "hungry" on those occasions.

DIFFERENT CRITTER DIGGING?

The morning of March 28th, a critter had been digging in each of the four rows in my sunflower garden. The digging appeared to be a little smaller in specific size, yet was more wide-ranging, affecting all the garden.

Critter Digging in my Sunflower Seedlings March 28 2014
Critter Digging in my Sunflower Seedlings ~ JaguarJulie
Photo Taken: March 28, 2014
Critter Digging in my Sunflower Seedlings March 28 2014
Critter Digging in my Sunflower Seedlings ~ JaguarJulie
Photo Taken: March 28, 2014
Critter Digging in my Sunflower Seedlings March 28 2014
Critter Digging in my Sunflower Seedlings ~ JaguarJulie
Photo Taken: March 28, 2014
I am pretty sure that there were two different types of critters digging in my sunflower garden over the five days. On the last morning that I found digging, the critter had skipped the garden and found my two rectangular flower pots on the side of the house.

What do you think was digging up my sunflower seedlings? Do you agree that it was a raccoon and an opossum? Have you dealt with these pesky critters in your garden? What would you do?

By the fifth day, I knew I had to take some action to protect my garden. Next up, Protecting Sunflower Seedlings From Digging Critters.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Sunflower Seedlings Emerging in Six Days

On Thursday morning, March 20, 2014, I spied my first little sunflower seedlings emerging. Since I wasn't using a seed starting kit this year, I opted to plant my sunflower seeds directly into the soil, just a bit deeper. So, six days seems reasonable when looking for sunflower seedlings to break through the soil.

First Sunflower Seedling of 2014 by JaguarJulie
First Sunflower Seedling of 2014 ~ JaguarJulie
Photo Taken: March 20, 2014
You can see that humble first sunflower seedling in the photo. You get an idea of how small it was when you compare it to the teal green round fertilizer granules from the Sta-Green Potting Mix.

Over the next few days, I started to see more and more seedlings emerging. In fact, I was seeing areas with too many sunflower seedlings coming up. I knew I would have to cull them out once they got bigger.

HOLD THE PHONE!

Sunflower Seedlings Dug Up JaguarJulie 2014
Sunflower Seedlings Dug Up ~ JaguarJulie
Photo Taken: March 22, 2014
You know that expression, "be careful what you ask for?" The morning of March 22nd, when I stepped out my patio door, I couldn't believe my eyes! In the first row of sunflower seedlings, the row nearest the house, I saw a critter had been digging like crazy. If you look closely, you can see many little sunflower seedlings lying "helter skelter" on the ground.

I put on my yellow rubber gloves and gathered up the seedlings and buried them back in the row, covering them with the dirt and potting mix.

OH NO! NOT AGAIN!!

Sunflower Seedlings Dug Up Again JaguarJulie 2014
Sunflower Seedlings Dug Up Again ~ JaguarJulie
Photo Taken: March 23, 2014
The next morning of March 23rd, I was actually awake at a little past 3:00 am. I took my flashlight and checked the rows of the sunflower garden. So far, so good as no more digging. A little later, around 3:40 am, Boots the cat got up and headed for the patio. I followed her with my flashlight. Yep! The critter had returned. This time, it dug up about the same amount of area, but it was the second row!

Once again, I put on my rubber gloves and gently reburied all those little seedlings. And, I thought to myself, "boy oh boy, I sure can't handle this every morning!" I'm not sure what critter is doing all this digging, but I am guessing it is either a raccoon or opossum as I've seen both at my back door over the years.

Well, there were no diggings on March 24th or March 25th. However, on the morning of March 26th, I saw a small area of the second row had been hit again. Check out a few more pictures of more diggings.

Sunflower Seedlings in the Four Rows JaguarJulie 2014
Sunflower Seedlings in the Four Rows ~ JaguarJulie
Photo Taken: March 26, 2014
There's a view of the four rows of sunflower seedlings on the morning of the 12th day. The row on the far right was the last row in which I planted the sunflower seeds. It seems to have the most seedlings emerging. Since the seedlings started to emerge, I've been keeping the garden rows moist, which means one watering can per row three times per day.

SUNFLOWER SEEDLINGS IN A CLUMP!

Sunflower Seedlings in a Clump JaguarJulie 2014
Sunflower Seedlings in a Clump #1 ~ JaguarJulie
Photo Taken: March 26, 2014
Sunflower Seedlings in a Clump JaguarJulie 2014
Sunflower Seedlings in a Clump #2 ~ JaguarJulie
Photo Taken: March 26, 2014
See those two last pictures of the sunflower seedlings in a "clump?" That means there are way too many seedlings coming up in the same area. If the critter continues to dig in my sunflower garden, I may not need to worry about separating those seedlings once they get bigger.

I have to tell you that I have too many little seedlings in one area because I deliberately planted more seeds in the rows. You see, in The Sunflower Project, I had distributed hundreds of my harvested sunflower seeds to participants. However, I only heard back from ONE participant, Lynda, that she was able to grow sunflowers from my seeds.

This year, I gave a few packets of sunflower seeds to Nelson at Baileys Powerhouse Gym. Chatting with him this morning, he also said that he is going to have to cull out the seedlings once they get bigger because he was seeing about 2 dozen in a small area.

It sure is heartwarming and very satisfying to plant sunflower seeds in the garden and watch them emerge as little sunflower seedlings. Have you tried a sunflower garden for yourself? I'd love to hear about it! P.S. Did you see my previous blog post about Planting My Second Sunflower Garden?


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Planting My Second Sunflower Garden

When it comes to planting sunflowers from seeds, I feel rather like a professional. This is my second sunflower garden from seed. For my first sunflower garden, in February 2013, I picked out the area that I wanted for my garden and started digging. Then in early March, I started with a few packets of Burpee Sunflower Seeds in a Burpee Starting Kit.

This year, for my second sunflower garden, I was doing things just a little bit differently. I opted to wait a little while longer to start! I waited until March 14, 2014 to get started. You see, this year we had some up and down weather and I didn't want my seedlings to face a hard freeze.

Tilling the Garden Plot for Sunflowers by JaguarJulie 2014
 Tilling the Garden Plot for Sunflowers by JaguarJulie
Photo Taken: March 14, 2014
The garden plot already had plenty of mulch, but had a few weeds and some errant grass that shot its roots into the soil. I had to first rake away all the mulch and then used my shovel to dig down and pull up all the grass roots.

Next, I opted to try four rows of sunflowers this year as opposed to the three rows of 2013.

Digging 4 Rows for Sunflower Seeds by JaguarJulie 2014
Digging 4 Rows for Sunflower Seeds by JaguarJulie
Photo Taken: March 14, 2014
I probably would have used a hoe if I had one. Instead, I took my shovel and dragged it down the soil to create a row. A couple of passes got the depth a bit deeper.

In last year's sunflower garden, I used Miracle-Gro Potting Mix. This year, I opted to spend a little less and use Sta-Green Potting Mix. It was approximately three dollars less per bag for the Sta-Green product.

Sta-Green Potting Mix Bag

Getting my four rows ready for the sunflower seeds, I added a generous application of Sta-Green Potting Mix in each of the rows.

Adding Sta-Green Potting Mix to the 4 Rows by JaguarJulie 2014
Adding Sta-Green Potting Mix to the 4 Rows by JaguarJulie
Photo Taken: March 14, 2014
If I had a second bag of potting mix, I would have added more to each of those rows. Next, came the fun part! It was time to add the sunflower seeds. For 2014, I didn't need to buy Burpee Sunflower Seeds as I had harvested my own seeds from my 2013 garden! There were quite the proliferance of sunflower seeds, even after I started The Sunflower Project. I had more than enough sunflower seeds for this garden.

Sunflower Seeds Planted in Garden by JaguarJulie 2014
Sunflower Seeds Planted in Garden by JaguarJulie
Photo Taken: March 14, 2014
Take a good look at that photo of the "blank canvas" so to speak! If you followed my sunflower garden in 2013, you got to see quite a different view of that garden plot as the sunflower plants began to grow. Check out the Sunflower Seedlings Emerging in Six Days! Follow me on my 2014 sunflower journey. Get on the blossom watch.


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