A couple of weeks ago we had a bit of a counting fest harvesting 20 sunflowers from the batch grown as part of Dig the City.
We got a call from the City Council that their sunflowers were ready for harvesting and I went down to measure the heights and collect the heads to count later.
Mel Kirby (see pic above) is the customer & community engagement manager at Manchester City Council who grew these Russian Giants from seed, initially at home in a planter and later transferred to a greenhouse in Warrington. Here's his sunflower diary giving an insight into how he felt about getting involved and cutting off the heads...
What's been interesting is that there are different ways you can measure your sunflowers and indeed count the spirals.
With the city council sunflowers they were all in large pots which meant that I could lie the sunflowers down and measure their height in cms on the ground.
We then cut off the heads about half a metre from the top of the head so that I could also measure and record the spiral direction of the leaves. This leaf data is a bonus but really good if we can get it because it tells us something about the direction the spirals are running throughout the plant.
I labelled each seed head with a number so I could identify it later and wrote the height and left spiral direction on a label stuck to the plant too so I wouldn't mix them up.
With the MOSI sunflowers, they are in planters in soil, so I measured the heights with a tape measure whilst they were still in the planters, labelled them, added the spiral direction date (ie right or left) and then cut them about half a metre from the head.
I went home with a swag of about 20 seed heads from Mel and 20 from MOSI, half of which I counted over the weekend. Seeing as I had lots of seed heads to count I created a table with columns for all the data I was collecting.
- Column 1: sunflower name #no.
- Column 2: height (cms)
- Column 3: seed head diameter (cm)
- Column 4: no. of bracts
- Column 5: clockwise spiral count
- Column 6: anti-clockwise spiral count
- Column 7: leaf direction (left or right)
After I'd counted (go here to download counting sheet showing how to count) each item of data I recorded it in my table and took a picture of each seed head on my iPad or iPhone (easier to capture the big sunflowers on an iPad and smaller ones on iPhone). I then emailed these files to myself with the name of the sunflower in the subject line so I could download it and save it to a folder using that name to upload later when it came to adding the data.
Next I registered my sunflowers by putting in my email address which sent me a personalised link to add all my sunflower data individually to a dashboard.
I found it easier separating the harvest, counting, data collection and data upload into separate stages.
Often I'd count a few sunflowers in my spare time til the table was full then I'd add the data all in one go, one sunflower at a time.
It's really great to watch the countometer on the front page of the website shoot up by 20 sunflowers!
One thing to watch out for is that your seed heads don't go mouldy - count them as soon after you have cut them down as is possible.
Only 2850 to go! Come on citizen scientists!