– Planting sunflower seeds – an idea worth sowing –

Unplugger and nature lover Joe Crossland has got us all growing! Want to join in? Whether it’s flowers or fresh herbs or salad you fancy having a go at, read his blog and get involved!

Small plant pot, filled with compost.

In these difficult times I find you need to distract yourself. Anything involving your hands tends to be quite meditative and mindful, whether it’s knitting, or drawing, or doing the washing up, your brain switches off from the ‘now’ and wanders off on its own path. I find this with gardening – I start to dig, or rake, or cut the grass, and suddenly, as if by magic, a few hours have passed.

With this in mind, I recently put a shout out to the Comms Unplugged community via our WhatsApp group, asking if anyone would like to participate in a little friendly sunflower growing competition, and to my surprise a number of unpluggers responded enthusiastically!  A date was set for planting day, and as I had a few spare seeds, I sent a few to anyone who couldn’t get hold of their own. Seeds made their way from Scotland to Lancashire, Staffordshire, South Wales and Dorset, thankfully arriving with plenty of time to spare.

Sunflower seed, ready for planting.

Sunflowers are a great thing to plant, especially with kids, as they grow fast – almost before your eyes – and reach almost incredible heights in a short space of time. But you don’t need to grow sunflowers, why not save a few seeds from your tomato and see what happens when you plant them? What about that potato at the back of the cupboard that’s started sprouting? Stick it in the ground or in a pot, cover it with soil and watch it grow – you’ll have a new crop to dig up in no time!

What if you don’t have any flower pots? Not to worry, anything will do, so long as it’s got some drainage holes. Old yoghurt pots, ice cream tubs, tin cans – anything you like. Old loo roll inner tubes are good too – make 4 or 5 vertical slits in the bottom, fold them in, overlapping the flaps to make a base, and bingo, you have your own biodegradable pot which, when your seedling has established itself, can be planted directly into the garden!

And what about if you don’t have access to a garden? Well, plenty of things can be grown indoors on a windowsill, like salad leaves, cress, herbs, tomatoes even. Many potted herbs you can buy in a supermarket are over-planted so they look full and bushy, but have you noticed how quickly they tend die off? That’s because they are crammed together and don’t have enough room. Simply take them out of their pot, divide into two or three and re-pot – they’ll do much better that way and you’ve now got two or three new plants!

Once planted, secure a plastic bag over the top for a warm, moist environment.

So, how do you go about planting and looking after your sunflower? Here are my tips for getting started.

From the archive: A few years ago, we held a sunflower growing competition at work. Here my colleague helps me move my entry outside. Sadly, the wind blew it over shortly afterwards and the head snapped off! You can’t win ‘em all!

      1. Take your pot and fill with compost or soil, so it’s around two-thirds full, and firm down gently.
      2. With a pencil, make a hole in the centre of the soil about 1 centimetre deep, into which you can place your seed. Cover over, and then top up with another centimetre or so of soil, and again, firm down gently.
      3. Give it a good water, then place on a saucer on a sunny windowsill. I have covered mine with a plastic bag and secured it with string (I couldn’t find an elastic band) which will keep the atmosphere warm and damp like a mini greenhouse. I’ll remove the bag once the green shoot emerges.
      4. Water only when the shoot first emerges and keep the soil damp, but not soaking.
      5. Re-pot your plant once it’s bigger, so give it more nutrients and more space for the roots to grow.
      6. Once you’re happy with the size, and the weather looks good, plant it outside in a sunny spot. It’s always good to secure it to a fence or a wall with string, so it doesn’t blow over.

        Georgia’s seeds… planted!


I’ll be making regular progress reports via Twitter, which you’ll be able to follow via #UnpluggedSunflower, and it would be lovely to see how everyone else is getting on too, so please do share your pics! In a few months’ time we’ll reconvene on the blog and see how everyone got on – and announce who grew the tallest sunflower. (No prizes, it’s just for fun!)

Unplugger Karen’s seeds – planted!

Planted – Unplugger Cathryn’s seeds!

Here they are – Sally’s seeds!








Joe is Communications Officer at the Glasgow Centre for Population Health.You’ll find him on Twitter here.