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Agriculture Today

Maximilian sunflower

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June 29, 2011 | 3,052 views | Post a comment

Q.What is the tall sunflower that grows in vacant lots around the area? It has an attractive flower and seems to be a favorite food source for cardinals and goldfinches.

A. The Maxi-milian sunflower is a native plant that will reseed itself every year. In my yard they grow to 8 feet tall and are loaded with 4-inch blooms. In the last half of May, they seem to have grown 6 inches per day.

Within two to three weeks after the first blooms appear, they will be maturing seeds. The seeds are a favorite food source for lesser goldfinches, cardinals, housefinches, chickadees, and even buntings. The birds will be pulling the seeds from the flower heads from dawn to dusk.

Sunflowers are a nectar source for numerous species of butterflies and several species, including the Painted Lady, lay their eggs on the plant.

Q. Spider mites wiped out our tomatoes this spring, but we are determined to do better in the fall. When can we plant?

A. Target Aug. 1, unless we are deep in drought; then delay a few weeks.

Q. Is there any conifer that does well in this area? We miss pines and spruce!

A. Arizona cypress, deodar cedar, Aleppo pine, Italian pine, and Japanese black pine all seem to prosper.

Q. The Bermuda grass has invaded my St. Augustine lawn. Is there anything that kills Bermuda grass and does not hurt St. Augustine?

A. No, grow the St. Augustine lawn at 3.5 inches tall, water as much as you can, and aerate the lawn to encourage St. Augustine grass. You may have to wait until the most recent drought is over.

Calvin Finch is a horticulturist and the San Antonio Water System’s project director of regional initiatives and special projects. Hear him on “Gardening South Texas” on KLUP 930 AM radio Saturdays noon to 2 p.m., and 1-3 p.m. Sundays. Or, e-mail him at reader@wcn-online.com.

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