Garden, Plant, Cook!

Sunday, April 26, 2015

The Incredible Edible Sunflower - More Fun Facts

Dear Folks,

Yesterday while harvesting some parts of the sunflower for my series, I noticed a lot of sap along the exterior edges of the sunflower leaves.

Cool Factoid!  Guttation!

The sap was sticky and sweet and I knew from earlier research (see note below about grape pearls) that it was not a problem, but a curiosity.

"Guttation is the exudation of drops of xylem sap on the tips or edges of leaves of some vascular plants, such as grasses."  -- wikipedia

"...root pressure forces some water to exude through special leaf tip or edge structures, hydathodes or water glands, forming drops."

I thought that was a pretty cool, new-to-me piece of information.

Another aspect of growing sunflowers in your garden is the Allelopathy attraction of sunflowers to aphids.  Notes on sunflowers as the 4th sister in the Three Sisters (Monsoon) growing practice of the Native Peoples was the fact that sunflowers drew aphids away from the other plants (corn, beans and squash).

I had a recent opportunity to see this in our gardens.  Two points about dealing with aphids:  1) you can use safe soap sprays to your advantage, but 2) you need to do so in such a way that a) it does not harm the beneficial insects, while b) allowing enough of the aphids to draw in the beneficial insects.

In the first picture below you can see that aphids have started to swarm on one of my sunflowers.

In the second picture you can see an assassin bug (the cavalry arriving) cruising one of the sunflowers.

For those of you becoming familiar with the good bugs/bad bugs in the garden, you may think the picture of the assassin is a leaf-foot.  Though a little similar in appearance the feet are different, and more difficult to see in the picture are the very, very long front legs of the assassin.

I did use the spray in the recommended 3 times over 15 days - no more aphids!

Grape Pearls:  About a month or so ago our Staci noticed white spots of something she thought might be pests on her grape vine stems.  I thought it looked like sap from the picture she sent and found out it was "Grape Pearls" a type of sap.

"Grape pearls are small sap-like, fluid-filled balls that are exuded from surface cells of rapidly growing grape vines. They appear most commonly in the spring and are often confused with mite or insect eggs. Some vines have many grape pearls but the pearls can appear singly or in smaller groups. They are usually found on the underside of leaves but can be on shoots as well. Grape pearls, also called "sap balls" are of no consequence to the vine." --

If you missed the first post in my new blog series on the sunflower, click here.

You may find some of my publications helpful with gardening in the desert for vegetables, fruits and herbs, or ideas for cooking with your harvest.

My publisher site is here.

Have a great day in the garden.  (P.S. Rainy time is a good time for transplanting - it helps the soil seal to the roots of the plants.)

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

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