Posts from May 2012

And we're off... Jodrell Bank launch into sunflower mode!

Tuesday 29 May 2012 Tagged inGrowing Tips, Meet the growers

We were so excited when we heard that the Jodrell Bank Discovery Centre would partner with us to grow some Turing Sunflowers. Luckily for us they have an on-site gardener, Becky Burns, who kindly shared growing tips with us at MOSI and some very willing staff. Katy Dixon, Marketing and Development Officer and Becky at Jodrell Bank give us the low down... and some very handy planting tips...

Rotovating the soil at JodrellWe wanted to get involved with the Turing's Sunflower Project as we had the perfect space for growing sunflowers in a sunny part of the garden. The beds we chose were topped up with fresh topsoil and rotavated to make it easier for planting seeds by hand.Seeds were sown in pairs directly into the soil with the names of the planters written on the labels next to them. As they grow we’ll nip out the weakest one so the stronger seedling will make its way skyward!

Seedlings peeking through the soilWith the first of our sunflower seeds poking their heads above the soil the race is now on!





Jodrell Bank Observatory staff were the first group to plant their Russian Giant seeds on Friday 18th May and it looks like they’re in the lead... Will the Pulsar group catch up and shade them out?

Observatory staff in actionOr perhaps one of our members of the public will give them a run for their money..?

One lady had her own whispered wish to the little seeds as she put them in while our 4 year old friend Stanley shouted “GROW SEED, GROW!!”

Jodrell Bank Discovery Centre staff are already plotting to bring in secret supplies of plant food for their seedlings, it seems like there’s a competitive streak among us!

One of our youngest gardeners

We’ve fenced off the areas with sturdy rabbit fencing as we don’t want the little nibblers to ruin our project!

keeping the rabbits out!

With the watchful eye of over 30 staff involved we hope to see these little seedlings well on their way to becoming the perfect material for the Big Count in the autumn (and a little competition for the tallest along the way...) We’ll be posting again in a few weeks time with an update on progress, fingers crossed for sunshine!

Becky is happy to add names (or the names of people nominated) to the sunflowers that they planted. Email to follow up.

Jodrell will also be putting on a spectacular event - Live at Jodrell Bank over Turing's Centenary weekend. It feels as if the planets have aligned because Paul Weller who will be playing, has a sunflower song!

MOSI's Turing's Sunflowers team, which includes the Manchester Science Festival, will be putting on some experiments in the Science Arena. A hugh thank you to Jodrell Director of The Visitor Centre, Teresa Andersen, her amazing team and Observatory staff who hit the ground running with this one.

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Manchester Science Festival planting

Saturday 26 May 2012 Tagged inGrowing Tips, Meet the growers

Natalie Ireland planting sunflowers

Manchester Science Festival Director Natalie Ireland is not only busy planning the Festival but in true SciFest spirit, where everyone can get involved, she took time out to plant some sunflowers in her back garden... here's what she had to say...

Whilst we've been beavering away at Festival HQ back in March I took some time out from the week to plant several batches of sunflower seeds. It was a bit cold back then but after a few rays of sun they started to sprout.

I planted some in empty tomato cans as well as seed trays. One thing I would say is that you really have to watch out for slugs once your sunflowers are growing... quite a few of mine got eaten.

Sunflowers planted in pots

 A few tips for getting rid of slugs, depending on whether you have pets / young kids or not, include using salt, beer and we've even tried garlic to keep the slugs at bay in the growboxes at MOSI. I hope a few of the growers out there will share their tips so we can have lots and lots of sunflowers to get enough data to look at the spiral patterns in the seed heads. And of course people can find out all about the results at the Manchester Science Festival, 27th October to 4th November 2012.

We're looking forward to meeting some of the growers and of course finding out the results of the experiment alongside many more exciting events at MOSI and across the city as part of the festival.

 - Natalie Ireland

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Sunday Planting at MOSI

Saturday 26 May 2012 Tagged inAround the world, events, Meet the growers

We were lucky to have great weather for all of our planting events at MOSI, including the staff planting on the 9th of May and the two public planting days on the 13th and 20th May 2012.

At the first public event lots of people came and helped us plant seeds in a growbox. The seeds are just peeping thrugh now. We were lucky that this Manchester group of lads came down after hearing about the event via twitter and facebook as they helped to plant the middle of the growbox which is a bit tricky to reach.

Meet the Growers from our public planting event

The following Sunday MOSI's very own Turing Character joined us out by the grow boxes to give an insight into Turing's life as master codebreaker and how to look for spiral patterns in the sunflower seedheads. We were also helped out by two very enthusiastic STEM ambassadors, Diana (University of Manchester) and Stephen(Cooperative Group) and from MOSI's Visitor Experience team, Louise, who knows her stuff when it comes to gardening. We planted all of the sunflowers grown by the Visitor Experience team and a few that members of the public brought in to plant.

The planting team with MOSI's very own Turing character and master code makers, Rory and Calvin

We were delighted to meet two master code makers, Rory and Calvin (in photo below) who loved hearing about Turing and codebreaking so much that they spent most of the afternoon dreaming up their own codes for us to crack.

Master code makersIf code breaking is something you'd like to try, come along to MOSI's half term Turing Centenary events in June and meet our Turing character too. Here's what Beren, one of the code-maker's mums had to say about the event:

"Thanks so much for the super day out on Sunday at MOSI: our 7 year olds were completely fixated by Alan Turing and the code breaking, they're still creating puzzles for us before and after school! It was a real inspiration and great for us to meet people so passionate about something (lovely website too-we've planted our sunflowers and waiting for them to sprout!)"

The experiment is capturing the interest of all generations - we were bowled over by a lovely lady who visited from Germany who came to plant sunflowers at MOSI and is delivering some seeds to a friend in Manchester before heading back to Germany. When Turing Sunflowers show up on the growers map in Germany - we'll know where they came from - so far there are over ten countries growing sunflowers for the experiment!  Are you on the map yet?

Sunflower seeds - a german perspectiveSunflower seeds - a german perspective

One of our partners, Caroline, from BBC Outreach was on hand to film clips from the planting event as we are hoping to make a film about the project working with BBC staff volunteers. More on that very soon, including how you can get involved in the film...

We've got two final boxes to grow on the railway at MOSI - we'll be planting those up next week with staff who have kindly grown sunflowers. We'll be posting pictures in the sunflower gallery as they grow and we look forward to your photos too. And, don't forget you can come and visit our Turing sunflowers anytime. We've even got some outdoor events lined up, including the Retro Bicycle Picnic in June and the Manchester Mini-Maker Faire in July.

In the meantime - there are only a few days left to plant before the end of May - so... seeds at the ready and plant away, its perfect weather to plant outside.

Here's fifty people who have planted their sunflowers and are sharing their photos and growing tips on twitter. To join the list, tweet @turingsunflower. There are also lots of people sharing their photos and talking about Turing's Sunflowers on facebook

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Staff Planting at MOSI

Tuesday 15 May 2012 Tagged inAround the world, events, Growing Tips

Staff planting at MOSI

Staff planting at MOSI, 9th May 2012

We've all been really busy growing sunflowers at MOSI. Everyone at MOSI have been helping out and it starts long before planting seeds as Stephen Hoyle, Project coordinator in MOSI's Technical Service team explains...

"After working in MOSI’s Technical Services department for the past seven years, I’m somewhat used to receiving strange work requests. Over the years the department has had to transport giant noses and Doctor Who’s TARDIS through rush-hour traffic, completely re-build a train and squeeze a dinosaur into a building, amongst many other things. So, in February when Manchester Science Festival Director, Natalie Ireland called and asked us to come up with some ideas on how and where we could plant hundreds of sunflowers at MOSI, my natural response was: “sure!”

I’m not the most natural horticulturist, as my overgrown and shabby back garden at home testifies. So, throughout the glorious sunshine of March, I locked myself away in my office learning all about the optimum conditions and locations for growing sunflowers and occasionally stepping outside and squinting in the sunlight to monitor exactly where the premium spots at MOSI are for catching the sun. Once I had acquired the knowledge, I started work on designing and sourcing materials for construction of eight huge 13.8m³ sunflower grow boxes which will triple the amount of green space on MOSI’s historic, but cobbled and very industrial looking, six acre site. Hopefully, if the sunflowers grow as hoped, by the summer they’ll also add some beautiful, vibrant colour to the site.

Manchester being Manchester, the beautiful weather in March is now a distant memory in late April. The materials for the grow boxes have been delivered and some of the more unfortunate souls in the Technical Services department have been braving some horrendous downpours and frankly miserable weather to construct the boxes outside our Great Western Warehouse. In the meantime, my job has been to source around 30 tonnes of soil and compost mix to fill the boxes in time for staff and public planting days in early May. In the spirit of team bonding, I did get my hands dirty and a much-needed pre-holiday upper body workout by helping to shovel the soil into the grow boxes. We used 50% topsoil & 50% compost.

Grow box construction

Grow box construction

Filling grow boxes with soil

Over the past few months I have also been doing my bit to promote the Turing Sunflowers experiment. I have cajoled several of our suppliers into participating; my American father in-law was so enthused by my discussions with him about the project that he has taken it upon himself to rope in several of his friends in the USA and Indonesia into growing sunflowers and last night, my girlfriend returned from the supermarket with terracotta pots and sunflower seeds, one for her work and one for home. Which is probably a hint that I should get round to mowing the lawn in the back garden."

... Now we know where some of those international growers came from on the map! There's still time to plant... if you don't have a garden, come can join us this Sunday (20th May) at MOSI to plant some sunflowers in Stephen's grow boxes and meet our very own Turing character, played by Lee, who'll be giving an insight into Turing's Life, legacy and obsession with maths in nature. See you there!

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Planting at Manchester Museum

Wednesday 9 May 2012 Tagged inevents, Meet the growers

Sunflowers and pinecones

Manchester Museum are excited to be involved in the experiment as the museum currently has an exhibition: 'Alan Turing & Life's Enigma' on until November which celebrates his life and legacy, and in particular his work at The University of Manchester. As a child, Turing was interested in the natural world including how complex natural patterns can develop (such as Fibonacci sequences in sunflower and pinecone spirals) and he revisited this interest while working with the newly invented computer in Manchester. The exhibition is packed full of Museum objects including sunflowers and pine cones.

Sunflower planting inside at Manchester Museum

In spite of the weather, over the easter holidays, families and volunteers planted Turing's Sunflowers both inside the museum and at the Museum's allotment.

Manchester Museum's AllotmentThe Museum's allotment is now in its second year and was set up in 2011 to celebrate the Living World's gallery when the Museum decided to see what they could grow in sheltered spot in the middle of the city. The allotment is not much bigger than a backyard but they've already grown over 30 varieties of vegetables, fruit and herbs.

It just goes to show what you can do in a small space, in your garden, on a balcony and even on a windowsill. Similarly many sunflower growers have also begun by growing their sunflowers on a windowsill.

Manchester Museum's next Turing Sunflower event, 'Big Sat Patterns in Nature' is on Saturday 19 May 2012. Go along to plant more sunflowers in the allotment or take them home to grow on your windowsill, balcony or garden.

Author: Anna Bunney, Curator of Public Programmes, Manchester Museum.

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International Sunflower Guerilla Gardening Day

Tuesday 1 May 2012 Tagged inAround the world, events, Growing Tips

Not got a garden? Well today, May 1st, is International Sunflower Guerilla Gardening Day and the perfect day to creatively plant a Turing Sunflower or two somewhere that could use a bit of brightening up. Every year on the 1st of May, the Guerrilla Gardeners have been encouraging people to grow sunflowers to brighten up neglected public spaces.

This video from Richard Reynolds from Guerilla Gardeners introduces the results of International Tulip Guerrilla Gardening Day 2010 of October 9 and gives and insight into last year's International Sunflower Guerrilla Gardening Day 2011 on Sunday 1 May. It also gives a quick guide as to how to plant your sunflower seeds and pictures of guerrilla sunflower planting from around the world.

Sign up to today's International Event on facebook and add your photos to the Guerilla Gardeners' photo group. We'll be heading out with a pocketfull of Russian Giants to plant around central Manchester today and joining 2500 people signed up from around the world. Follow @Richard_001 for Guerilla updates.

Let's hope we can brighten up Manchester and the rest of the world with the results!

Thanks to @TallulahTangle for reminding us of this great event!

Happy May Day everyone.

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