August is, oddly enough, one of our favorites on the farm on many levels. But, the biggest positive has to do with the number of annual flowers that put on their best clothes during the month.
We have a nice hedge of sunflowers in another vegetable crop. In fact, this plot is adjacent to the plot with the nice zinnia planting, so the path between the two is going to be wonderful to walk.
This hedge started blooming a week or so ago. And, just to the south is our last succession of summer squash and zucchini. They look awfully small when you compare them to their lofty neighbors.
Sunflowers attract larger bumblebees and small birds along with some butterflies. On Tuesday, Rob observed Mrs Bunting and offspring and some Eastern Goldfinches in the sunflower hedge.
We're not entirely sure if the sunflowers will do much to attract pollinators for our squash plants, though we are certain they won't hurt in that endeavor. Perhaps the biggest thing is that the sunflower hedge provides a fence of a sort. We'd been having deer traffic through this area that has since been diverted by this planting. Happily, deer are more easily diverted on our farm than they might be for people living closer to a metropolitan area. That doesn't mean we don't have to do other things to protect our crops - but the sunflowers do play a part in the whole strategy. Think of it as a part of our IPM (Integrated Pest Management).
So, what could possibly go wrong with using sunflowers as a hedge next to another crop? Well, you do need to consider the competition for water and nutrients. You don't want the sunflowers to steal away what the squash plants need. So, we've been fairly careful with spacing. Our crops are to the South of the sunflowers, so our squash plants should get plenty of sun. The only issues we can think of include the possibility that we would attract birds and other critters that cause problems with our crop OR a strong North wind could lay all of the sunflowers down. They are tall enough that they would reach that first row of summer squash.
When you choose to run the type of farm we run, it can be pretty easy to get overwhelmed. It isn't all that hard to be disappointed in things that don't go exactly as you wanted them - and there are soooo many opportunities for things to go awry that it's actually a bit of a surprise when something does go EXACTLY as you planned. It doesn't necessarily help that we set the bar pretty high - and then raise it every season.
The solution? Plant more sunflowers. Plant more zinnias. And smile a bit more often as you look at them.
We'll take it.