The Titan Sunflower (Helianthus Annuus) is a truly fun and astounding plant. Capable of 12-plus feet in height and a flower of up to two feet across, the Titan certainly lives up to its name. Deep yellow color and old-fashioned appearance make for a striking border, fence cover or backdrop.
The Titan seeds we harvested in the fall have now been dried, slow-cured and germination tested. Finally, they’re ready to bring another generation into the world.
Our plants handled the heat well and didn’t require a lot of water, which is actually not surprising when you consider that the sunflower is indigenous to the Southwest deserts and mountains of southern New Mexico, Arizona and northern Mexico. Southwest growers will experience as close to a trouble-free grow as you can hope for, given the harsh conditions of these hot, cold and arid regions.
Sunflowers tend to attract a lot of aphids. While this characteristic has its obvious drawbacks, it also makes the plants useful as a sacrificial barrier or decoy to keep aphids off the main garden. Secondarily, a bonus of aphids can help to draw ladybugs, or serve as a food source to establish ladybugs. Our growing region tends to have a lot of wild ladybugs that seem to be naturally attracted to carrots, sorghum and okra, at least in our gardens.
Most casual gardeners will achieve 8-10 feet tall and one to 1.5 foot blossom diameter. Well-fed, cultivated, groomed and isolated specimen plants can reach over 12 feet tall with 2-foot blossoms.
The Mexican Sunflower (Tithonia Rotundifolia) is a different plant than the better-known Common Sunflower and its developed varieties (Helianthus Annuus). This flower doesn’t produce the same kind of edible seeds, but it does live and thrive just about anywhere it’s temperate. Poor soil, little water and hot sun just make these tough, beautiful flowers even happier, it seems at times.
We have these plants in the full Southern Arizona sunlight for 11-12 hours a day, and all they have done is flourish in temperatures as high as 120 degrees in June and July of 2016. Nary a wilt among them all.
The big bonus is that Tithonia are irresistable to important pollinators like bumblebees, solitary native bees, honey bees, butterflies (Mexican Sunflower is a favorite of the Monarch butterfly) and hummingbirds. And they do well in more temperate climates like the Midwest and Atlantic seaboard, as well. They will need absolutely full sun and little water in those places, however.
In our opinion, you can’t find more trouble-free and effusive color anywhere else. And at the end of the season it will re-seed itself and can be tilled under to improve the soil’s carbon/nitrogen content and its texture. Leaves and flowers are edible as greens, also.
We grow and stock Heritage Quality, Heirloom, Open-Pollinated seeds ONLY.
Our goal is to do our part in securing regional food supplies, through diversity, hardiness, and selection for desired traits, such as flavor, color, drought tolerance and productivity. We want to provide seeds that grow beautiful, tasty and productive plants, that also happen to be tough as nails when it comes to surviving harsh conditions.
Arizona’s unique geography allows for two separate climates in which to grow: the Southern and Western Deserts (Mohave, Yucca and Sonoran) with three full seasons, and the Northern/Eastern, Alpine Life Zone at 6000+ feet of elevation, which lies alongside the Painted Desert/Petrified Forest of about 5000 feet elevation.
In both cases, drought and poor soil conditions are just the toppers to the harsh weather all over the West. Our location also provides us with access to some of the most ancient seed lines in North America, through the native people who were among the first to domesticate and develop some of today’s most productive foods, including corn, sunflower, beans, peppers and tomatoes.
Michael and Bettie Bailey, our son and a few local friends benefit from the fact that seed farming, for us, is a much-smaller scale operation than traditional row cropping on huge acreage. It only takes a few people to operate a layout which we designed as interlocking permaculture-based gardens, rather than vast fields of commercial cropland.
We sell only Open-Pollinated, Non-Hybrid seeds, that are grown only with natural input, both for nutrients and pest control. Extensive use of compost and soil building with mulch and crop remains are standard practice.
If we have the need to import either soil or amendments, such as worm castings or potting soil, we insist that it be sterile before it comes through our gates. It will be inoculated with the soil organisms in our operation ONLY. We are determined that nothing that comes through our gates will contaminate our natural local conditions.
This is what our children eat. The cleaner, the healthier our children’s food, the better for the world as a whole. Well-nourished and healthy leaders make better decisions, all else being equal, and the children of today are the leaders of tomorrow. Clean, healthy food is, therefore, a solid investment in the future that all of us share.
We constantly select for traits that thrive in our bio-region. Since our operation is located in Arizona, we emphasize ancient and adapted Heirloom Seed varieties for the Southwest Desert US, Southwest mountains, the West Coast, the Intermountain West and the Big Sky Redoubt.
We select for family subsistence, based on landrace traits when possible, for easier regional adaptation. We also undertake ongoing trials to determine the suitability of heirloom varieties from around the globe that might take well to our regional conditions.
For instance, we have found a Russian melon that thrives in the poor soil, 120-degree heat and drought of a Southern Arizona summer. Who would have thought any plant from Russia could survive, let alone prosper in such conditions? And its Northern European heritage means this same melon also does well in the standard, four-season Intermountain West.
We come from farming families, and we are life-long residents of our State. We are well aware of the needs of the people who grow heirloom seeds in our part of the world. We ARE those people, and they are our neighbors.
One of the most famous farming methods utilized by the indigenous tribal peoples of North America is called The Sisters. Three Sisters Planting refers to corn, providing support for pole beans, which in turn provide nitrogen fixing into the soil for the corn, and ground covering vines such as squash or melons to preserve moisture and provide cooling for the roots of the beans and corn. In the Southwest deserts, another, Fourth Sister joins the Three Sisters: Sunflowers also provide shade and cover from wind, as well as further support for beans and vines. Learn more about Gardening with The Three Sisters here: