April 30, 2012

Guerrilla gardeners across Pakistan are planting Sunflower seeds on Tuesday, May 1, 2012 for the first time and you are invited! Since 2007, thousands of guerrilla gardeners around the globe get out of their homes and plant sunflower seeds wherever they find an appropriate space around their towns and cities.

The idea fascinated me and we decided to launch Sunflower Guerrilla Gardening Day in Pakistan. Crops in Pots  and Greener Karachi Trust announced the event and soon Caritas Pakistan joined in and offered free seeds for all guerrilla gardeners who join us. My kitchen garden group, Sarsabz Pakistan and Pakistan Sustainability Network are also working on hosting the event in their own cities. In the meantime, guerrilla gardeners from Karachi, Islamabad, Lahore are busy preparing for the day!

Why Sunflowers?

Sunflowers are not only loved for their bright and vibrant colours, they are also valued for their ability to improve the ground soil by acting as a green manure and by suppressing weed growth. The stunning flower is rich in nectar and pollen that attract beneficial insects, especially butterflies, and improves bee forage in the summer. A single sunflower plant looks just as striking as when these massive flowers are bunched together in a group. The best part is that sunflower seeds are an excellent source of Vitamin E.

Since sunflowers are native to Pakistan, seeds are very cheap and available in most general and horticulture stores. Sunflowers are drought resistant which makes them ideal for Karachi. And birds love to eat them.

How to plant sunflower seeds?

Simply use a screw driver or a fork to loosen the soil. Add a handful of fresh compost if the patch is too sandy. Now simply sow your seeds two inches deep and cover them with soil. You might want to put a sign there just to know where exactly you planted the sunflower seeds. Water the space well and then come back to see the progress in a week’s time. Some seeds will sprout in a day or two, while some will take as long as two to three weeks.

Blooming time depends on the variety you get. Some dwarf sunflowers will flower in two months and the huge six-eight feet tall flower heads will develop in three to four months time.

How you can participate?

Do it solo or make a group. You can plant sunflowers anytime during the day. Luckily May 1 is a public holiday so you don’t have to worry about the timing and traffic. If you recruit your friends, you will be able to cover a larger area as a group. Make sure you send us your photos, videos and most importantly share your experience with us at Crops in Pots.

What you will need?

All you need is some sunflower seeds, something to dig with, water and some compost. If you join us in Karachi (the venue will be announced on our Facebook page), Caritas will have free seeds for you.

How to select a spot?

The idea is to beautify your roadsides, ugly roundabouts, weedy tree pits, a neglected neighbourhood garden or simply any spot that can use a bit of brightness. Ideally, the spot should not be too dry and sandy so that the sunflowers aren’t weeded away. Pick a spot that is near your work or home or a street, which you pass by every day, so that you can easily stop by and water your plants.

Some more ideas:

-Use coconut husk along with compost to retain moisture

-If you feel watering can become an issue, then you can use an empty plastic bottle with a hole in the bottle-cap. Cut the bottom, invert it and fix it near your plant, fill it with water. It will keep dripping for a few days.

-If you don’t know which variety you are planting, don’t worry! Trust me this will turn out to be very exciting.

-Make this a family or friends get-together or host an event in your school. This can become an excellent community activity for your NGO as well.

-Take a picture with your sunflowers and show it to everyone! Don’t forget to tag us!

Our country needs some brightness and lots of bright sunflowers growing around us will definitely make a difference. Become a guerrilla gardener this summer, and sow some brightness across your town!

Happy gardening!