Surprise Sunflowers

Posted by on Mar 28, 2019 | Comments Off on Surprise Sunflowers

Surprise Sunflowers

by Sarah Wayne, Garden Coordinator at Jackson-Via Elementary 

It’s mid-February and time to start seeds with classes. Tomatoes, peppers, and impatiens for Mother’s day flowers. Pre-K, 1st, and 3rd grade classes scoop up potting soil, sprinkle in 2 or 3 seeds and cover up them up. They water them and watch them soak up the grow light sunshine.

One week later – the seeds are starting to sprout! Teachers and students are so excited that their plants are starting to grow. Emily Axelbaum, a third grade teacher and avid gardener, comes into one of the classrooms and asks what we are growing. “Tomatoes and peppers!”, I say. “Those look like sunflowers.” I shake my head. “No, we didn’t plant any sunfl…oh.”

I think back to last spring when one of the kindergarten classes planted sunflowers to take home. I remember a sunflower seed packet laying in one of the potting soil buckets. Was it an empty seed packet? Did it get dumped into the potting mix?

It did.

Sunflowers grow quickly. Much faster than tomatoes and peppers. As a gardener, I am worried for the little seeds trying to grow next to the sunflowers. They will have to compete with the them for sunlight and water.

Throughout the next couple weeks, I visit the five classrooms that started seeds. So. Many. Sunflowers. I tell the teachers what has happened and that we can either keep them or trim them so that the other plants can grow. All of the teachers want to keep them.

Christen Edwards, a Pre- K teacher, is interested in seeing if her students notice that the sunflowers are different from the peppers that we planted. During a lesson a couple weeks later, they did notice.

We discuss what makes them different. Their leaves, stems, and how they feel are all different. Other classes compare their heights.

Kayla Terhune, a third grade teacher, remembers when the birds would knock seeds out of her late stepfather’s bird feeders: “We would always have random wild sunflowers growing in our yard…since his passing that flower is something that I tied closely to his memory. The idea of how much something grows depends on its surroundings reminds me of lessons he taught me. Life is what you make it and what you get out of it is what you put in.”

Last week Kayla’s third grade class re-potted their sunflowers into bigger pots. They also re-potted the tomatoes which are looking great.

Jackson-Via will have some very early sunflowers this year!