Sunflowers, Tangles and Tomatoes

July 21st, 2008

It seems that if you plant sunflowers, there will be a few volunteers over the years.  This one is growing toward the front of the house, brought there by friendly birds after last year’s plants in the garden. 

Sunflower volunteer planted by birds

It’s kind of neat that one of the ways seeds are propagated in nature is due to birds.  The birds eat the fruit and as the seeds pass through their digestive tract, they are deposited in many different places.  Which is kind of amazing really.   Except for cedar trees.  Eastern Red Cedar that is.  It’s a pretty, evergreen tree that produces very strong (and nice smelling) wood.  But they are ubiquitous!  Too big of a word to simply say we have too many around, and they get their start with the help of birds usually while perched along a fence. 

Brushy fenceline

At least around here that’s why you see so many cedar trees along the fence lines.  Down the road a bit I saw someone who cleared out their fence line of all the brush and barb wire, removing all but some nicely spaced and trimmed cedars.  That looks very nice I will admit.  One day perhaps we’ll do the same.  For now the barb wire, old fence posts and tangly growth is just going to stay for a while.

Speaking of growing things, our tomatoes are finally turning red.  The little cherry tomatoes have been producing for a while, but the larger ones are now ripening.  We planted several different varieties as an informal experiment to see which ones do well here.  With the cooler, wet season early on, it seemed like they were going to stay green, but now they are coming on much better.   

Tomatoes growing in July

If they produce much more we’re going to make sauce, stewed tomatoes, frozen tomatoes… whatever works. Met someone last week though who is growing 104 tomato plants… in their yard.  They are taking the ripe tomatoes to farmer’s markets in the back of a truck.  That must be a lot of picking!

3 Responses to “Sunflowers, Tangles and Tomatoes”

  1. Reminds me of a neighbor who let the sunflowers get away from him in a beanfield next to ours and they went to seed. It was probably 4 or 5 years later before he got it back under control from all the volunteer sunflowers. We also were out there for 4 or 5 years on our side of the fence getting the ones the birds lefts behind.

    Unless you are farming next to the fence or raise livestock, I say let the cedars grow. They provide an excellent wind break and cover for quail, pheasant and all sorts of wildlife. Plus with some green food coloring in a bowl of water after they’ve been cut, they make excellent Christmas trees. I’ve had one for Christmas almost every year of my life.

    Our tomatoes got hailed on last night. It was still raining this morning so I haven’t seen the damage but they were still standing when I looked out the back window. It’s just been a bad year all around.

  2. Thanks for the tip about sunflowers becoming invasive… have to keep an eye on that. I do like cedars, don’t get me wrong, but we just have too many in places. In many areas of Missouri there used to be a lot more natural glades, especially throughout the Ozarks. The glades are host to a wonderful biodiversity different from any other, but because we don’t encourage natural fires, they are taken over by species such as cedar. With fire, they are controlled, and some of the natural resources folks actually go around and do that.

    I certainly don’t want to encourage a fire on our small acreage, so I go around cutting where there are too many of some trees and such. But I really do appreciate them for a windbreak as you say… I had to laugh at myself. There was a big gap along the road where no cedar had grown, so I dug a little one up and planted it- spacing it among the other larger ones. Go figure… mostly I cut them down, and here I was planting one?! And Christmas trees? I say good for you… we did that one year, but it became so dry and prickly I was told “never again!” Is that something you just get used to?

    Sorry about your tomatoes… hope they come back okay. You sure have had the wild weather this year.

  3. You bring up a good point about fire protection. My parents own land south of you in Arkansas and though we love the trees, we keep them cleared from around the cabin for the occasional tossed cigarette fire that happens. Twice the grass has burnt up to the foundation but because there was no brush, has done nothing but singe the concrete a little.

    Red Cedars don’t last as long as the traditional firs because they dry out so fast. They are only good for a few weeks. I normally just put on a light pair of gloves when undecorating the tree to protect my hands. Our house has hardwood floors so cleanup is easy but our old house had carpet and you did step on needles for a week or two afterwards until you got them all. That certainly wasn’t pleasant. But for me, I’m willing to put up with it all because it doesn’t cost me a cent to get one. Just a handsaw and some elbow grease.

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