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Grow your own sunshine

Sunflowers are the essence of summer and their big bold yellow flowers are pure happiness. October is the perfect time to sow your very own mini-field of sunflowers . . .

Sunflowers are a wonderful magnet for bees, and sunflowers have the clever ability to turn their faces towards the sun until the flower heads mature and are then fixed in the one direction.

Yates Yellow Empress Sunflowers will grow to an impressive 1 to 1.5 metres tall and develop very large flowers up to 35cm in diameter. They can be grown as a dramatic garden backdrop or create a stunning flower bed feature.

Grow your own sunflowers with these easy steps:

Find a spot with well-drained soil that receives at least 6 hours of sunshine a day and is sheltered from wind.Enrich the soil by digging in some Yates Thrive Natural Blood & Bone. It helps to improve soil quality and attract earthworms and beneficial soil microorganisms.Sow Yellow Empress Sunflower seed 12mm deep, direct where the plants are to grow. Firm down, water gently and keep moist throughout the germination period.Seedlings will emerge in 10 to 14 days.Feed the plants each week with Yates Thrive Roses & Flowers Liquid Plant Food, which is a complete fertiliser that’s boosted with additional flower-promoting potassium.As the plants grow, they may need to be supported with a stake.Flowering will start from around 12 weeks after sowing.Flower stems can be cut for a beautiful vase display. For optimum vase life they’re best picked in the cool of the early morning, before the flowers are too old, and remove all the leaves that will sit below the water. How to grow kumaraPotatoes unfortunately don’t count towards your 5-a-day-vegetables goal, but thankfully delicious kumara (sweet potatoes) do. They’re rich in vitamins and minerals, have a low GI and are high in carotenoids, which are great antioxidants.

Some of the most common varieties of kumara include ‘Beauregard’ which has orange skin and flesh, red skinned ‘Owairaka Red’ which has white flesh with purple streaks and golden ‘Toka Toka Gold’.

If you have a warm sunny spot and a frost-free window for five months, you can grow your own kumara at home. The plants are vigorous vines that will grow over the ground, with the edible tubers developing below ground. Kumara can be started from tubers, potted plants (available in garden centres) and also ‘slips’, which are shoots taken from a sprouting kumara tuber.

Prepare and enrich the soil before planting kumara by digging in some Yates Thrive Natural Blood & Bone. This will add valuable organic matter to the soil and provide the establishing plants with gentle, slow-release organic nutrients. Apply further Thrive Natural Blood & Bone around the root zone every eight weeks to encourage healthy leaf growth and the development of lots of kumara tubers. As the plants develop you can pick some of the nutritious and tender new leaves and steam them or use them in stir fries.

Keep an eye out for sap-sucking insect pests like aphids and whitefly and control with weekly sprays of Yates Nature’s Way Natrasoap Vegie Insect Gun, applying both on the upper and lower leaf surfaces where these insects often hide.

After around five months (or once the vines start to yellow) you can start to gently feel under the ground for tubers and harvest as you need them.

Space saver tip: in smaller gardens, try growing a few kumara plants along and up a trellis. They will need to be tied gently to the trellis as they grow, as their preference will be to grow along the ground. Kumara can also be grown in a large, well-drained container, ensuring the potting mix is kept moist and the plants well fed.

— Courtesy of Yates