Posts tagged Growing Tips

Sunflower survivors at Quarry Bank Mill

Wednesday 29 August 2012 Tagged inGrowing Tips

Ellen Fenton, Learning and Interpretation Manager at Quarry Bank Mill, National Trust gave us the low down on their sunflower growing efforts... (and some of the challenges they've been facing).

Planting sunflowers

We planted our first 100 sunflowers in April, with Styal Primary school coming in for a planting session (attached) with Dot Wilson, our Apprentice House Gardener. They were all very excited but we soon realised we had a problem when the sunflowers were demolished by a plague of slugs. Not a single one survived.

slugs got our sunflowers

We then got a crack team of gardeners planting throughout end May and beginning of June and other staff members (and their families!) nursed on seedlings at home and in greenhouses to get them going – our plan was to grow them on until they were a bit more slug resistant. We had an allocated slot all along the East Wall of our ongoing ‘project’ Garden, which has recently opened to the public, but this then suffered quite a lot of damage in our flash flood and planting out has been delayed. We have also still sustained slug and rabbit damage so are trying to get them strong and big enough to try and avoid this. We planted a few more and are still crossing our fingers that they will make the grade!

Sunflower survivors

Here are a few of the survivors!

Meet the Growers - Community Open Day

Thursday 19 July 2012 Tagged inGrowing Tips, Meet the growers

One of our partners is The University of Manchester and its been fantastic to work with researchers from the maths department, computing and now... The Faculty of Life Sciences. Charlotte Alcock, shares an insight to their growing activities...

Dr Minsung Kim tlaking about spiral patterns in plants

The Faculty of Life Sciences at The University of Manchester got involved with Turing’s Sunflowers Experiment as part of our annual Community Open Day. Every year we open our doors to local people so they can come in and have a look around, talk to our scientists and get involved in some hands on science!

We were keen to include this great experiment as part of our day as we do a lot of research on plants and are passionate getting the public engaged with our research and science in general.


Over 100 seedlings were grown by the lovely volunteers at the University’s Botanical Gardens to be given away to members of the public on the Open Day with instructions on how to look after them and how to get involved in the big seed count once the plants had flowered. Dr Minsung Kim one of our plant science researchers was on hand to talk about Fibonacci numbers in nature.

Around 700 people braved the downpours to come and get involved with the Open Day and all our seedlings found willing homes by the end of the day!

Check out the gallery to see highlights from the day.

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Dr Minsung Kim tlaking about spiral patterns in plants

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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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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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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How to Grow a Turing Sunflower

Friday 20 April 2012 Tagged inGrowing Tips

As you know it's time to get planting.

At MOSI, staff are starting to grow sunflowers and we managed to catch up with Jean Franczyk, Director at MOSI to show us just how easy it is to plant a Turing Sunflower and exactly what you need to get started.

Check out the video to find out how to grow sunflowers in pots and head over to our planting section for more details. Check out our tips to keep them alive and, in a few weeks time, come along to our public planting days at MOSI.

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