Display Crop Diary
We have a little display crop at the Visitor Information Centre, where we try to give visitors a little insight into farming by growing seasonal crops.
6. October 2016
Planted a row of giant and a row of medium sunflowers. We had rain the day after I planted the sunflowers and they already poked their little leaves through the earth three days later! I am expecting the sunflowers to bloom in January.
28. October 2016
Planted two rows of cotton. My farming mentor, Neil Barwick, instructed me to plant the cotton when the earth reaches 15 degrees celsius, and to plant them 10cm apart. Cotton will take longer than the sunflowers and it grows about knee-high, that’s why I planted it in front of the sunnies. I am expecting it to bloom in February/March.
3. November 2016
6 days after planting the cotton, the first shoots broke through the earth! They are only tiny, but gosh, it doesn’t take long, does it!
6. November 2016
My little crop is doing well, growing every day. I have a nearly straight line of cotton shoots.
Did you know that the word “cotton” comes from the Arabic word “qutun” or “kutun” describing any fine textile?
Cotton is a perennial, that means, it is a plant that lives for more than two years. It grows and blooms over the spring and summer, dies every autumn and winter and then grows back from their rootstock in spring. But on a commercial basis, it is grown annually as a summer crop.
The cotton plant takes about 180 – 200 days from planting to full maturity ready for harvest. Cotton is quite a unique crop: it is both, a food and a fiber! Cotton seed is an important feed for cows. Cottonseed oil is found in more places than you would think: a cotton expert proved that cotton can be found in every single isle in a supermarket. The cotton balls were an easy find, but less obvious were the cottonseed oil used in chips, taco seasoning and canned oysters. It is also found in furniture and baby cleaning wipes, vegetable shortening, syrup and light ice-cream.
The sunflowers are growing steadily in the background, as the cotton shoots are only just poking their heads out of the ground.
9. December 2016
Our crops love all the attention – sunshine, rain, sunshine, rain, sunshine … they are growing steadily. The sunflowers are now more than knee- high and the flowers will start forming soon.
There are two crops in the Liverpool Plains just about to burst out into a sea of yellow flowers. Another week should do the trick, and it is go, go, go for all the sunflower fans who are waiting to travel to the Liverpool Plains to take photos of the happy flowers. It is always tricky to get the timing right and I depend on people to tell me! Fortunately I have a great network of agronomists and locals who keep me informed, be it per telephone, yelling across he road in town or in the shopping isles of the supermarket “Nikki, the sunflowers are blooming on the Blackville Road” or “there is a sunflower crop just out of Spring Ridge flowering in about two weeks”. A very happy customer and subscriber to our sunflower alert once called me “sunflower goddess” – although I don’t feel very godly, and I am only doing my job, I love it in a smirking sort of way.
The cotton is doing well too, the leaves are growing in size and they are looking nice and healthy!
5 January 2017
The sunflowers are opening now one by one and looking stunning. It is almost time for the cockatoos to move in and eat them!! But fortunately we have a bit of time to enjoy the happy flowers. How good do they look!
The cotton takes a bit longer to go to seed, it is doing well though, growing at a steady pace.
20 January 2017
The sunflowers are now all in full bloom and look gorgeous!
My farm adviser Neil told me I have planted them too densely, so they won’t reach their potential size. But I decided to go for quantity rather than quality this year! And I have been told the many flowers look so welcoming as you drive into Willow Tree from the south! Although pretty, this crop is not very efficient, because, as Neil said, they did not reach their full size, as they were too crowded. The sunnies are on a drip-water system, and I water them once or twice a week, a bit more in the hot weather. This way they stay pretty a bit longer. The farmers don’t water the sunnies at this stage, because they are not interested in the sunnies’ stunning appearance, they want them to wilt and dry out so they can harvest the seeds.
You see a variety of bees hanging around the sunflowers. They pollinate the sunflowers. The diagram on this link explains how pollination works http://www.edenproject.com/learn/for-everyone/what-is-pollination-a-diagram-for-kids .
Do the bees make sunflower honey? Although I haven’t heard of Sunflower honey in this area, it is highly ranked in the world. The biggest manufacturers are France and Spain. Only pure honeydew and certain special homogenous types of honey are before it regarding quality. The reason is extremely high concentration of flower pollen and some minerals dissolved in sunflower honey. Its color varies from yellow to orange and it has a pleasant taste. People unjustly avoid it due to its fast crystallizing property. (source: www.bees-products.com)
The beauty of the sunflowers has distracted me from the cotton, which I am growing at the same time, but I noticed that the cotton has started to produce flowers as well!
The cotton bolls will form in the flowers, they will then open up and when they are fully open they are ready for picking. Follow this link for more information on cotton growing: http://cottonaustralia.com.au/uploads/resources/CEK_Chap_4_The_Cotton_Plant.pdf