Hello again fellow gardening enthusiasts! Long time – no blog. Well, things have settled down and I am back on track to fill you in on a few tips for your garden.

I know it’s just the start of fall, but we are still battling the high temperatures. It has been a very warm summer and just had another attack of 100 degree weather. Things should start to cool down a bit. Consequently, we had a huge flush of tomatoes, zucchini and cucumbers in August and September. The quality of the tomatoes had been outstanding through the first part of August. Towards the end of August and through September we started having issues with cracked and sunburned fruit due to the searing temperatures. Luckily though, they are still tasty in marinara and our kitchen crew worked overtime to stockpile the soups and sauces.

September is the perfect time to start transplanting your cole crops. Check out last year’s blogs for the fall and you will see that broccoli and cauliflower are big items here at Sunshine Care, A Community of Assisted Living Homes in Poway, California. With this in mind, I thought I would test the planting schedule by transplanting broccoli on August 22nd. They are doing well and should have something to harvest by the end of October. I wasn’t consistent through September with my planting schedule due to those nasty stretches of 95-100 degree heat. But now, a week into fall, we are yanking out old cucumber, bell pepper and tomato rows and planting cool season crops like crazy.


Enough of the discussion on garden food for now, because I want to touch on an equally important side of what makes us unique in the assisted -living community world. A vase full of flowers is as important to our residents as a delicious home grown organic salad. Eyes light up when handed a bouquet of beautiful roses from our Memorial Garden. This year we added another player to our cut flower program, SUNFLOWERS! That are a big hit and easier to grow than roses. They also last longer in a vase. All our sunflowers are sown and placed in the greenhouse by our residents. They do this along side of the children in our garden club that meets the first and third Thursday of every month in our “Seed to Table” program. This is a great volunteer activity for the kids to do with their “Grandmas and Grandpas’ and seeding once a month from February to October, insures a consistent supply of beautiful sunflowers for all the houses.

The sunflower (Helianthus annuus) is an annual plant native to the Americas. What is usually called the “flower” on a mature sunflower is actually a “flower head” (also known as a “composite flower”) of numerous florets crowded together. The outer petal-bearing florets are the sterile florets and can be yellow, orange, red or other colors. The florets inside the circular head are called disc florets, which mature into seeds.


The flower petals within the sunflower’s cluster are usually in a spiral pattern. Generally, each floret is oriented toward the next by approximately the “golden angle “of 137.5 degrees. This produces a pattern of interconnecting spirals, where the number of left spirals and the number of right spirals are successive Fibonacci numbers. Typically there are 34 spirals in one direction and 55 in the other. On a very large sunflower like the Russian Mammoth, there could be 89 one way and 144 in the other. Thispattern produces the most efficient packing of seeds within the flower head. Gotta love the beauty of math in nature, huh?

There is a common misconception that sunflowers track the sun across the sky. This is an old wives tale. The heads are actually pointing in a fixed direction (East) all day long. Keep this in mind when selecting a site for your sunflower garden.

Germination of sunflower seed takes from 7-14 days at 70-75 degrees F. They love full and light well-drained soil. You can plant them from 9-24”. Tighter spacings will give you flowers of smaller size. Harvest your flowers just as they begin to open. There are many branching, commercial single stem and dwarf types. They also come in hundreds of colors and combination of colors. So pull out your Johnny’s Selected Seed catalog and order your seed for next season and plant right after the threat of frost has passed.

Here are some of the favorite varieties we have tried at Sunshine Care this past year. We will continue to try different ones next year to mix up the color combinations. All of these were big hits this year.


STRAWBERRY BLONDE- The ruby-red flowers of this variety, hold their petals very well. The petals have lemony tips and dark centers. This is a branching variety as opposed to a single stem variety. The side stems are long and great for cutting. It is pollenless, grows 5’-6’ tall and blooms in about 55 days. Packs of 50 seeds are $3.45.

RING OF FIRE- For all you Johnny Cash fans, this variety has a unique bicolor flower pattern, set on fire with autumn colors. It is a branching variety and an AAS winner with 5”-6”blooms that pop in about 70 days. Plants will grow to 40”-50”. A pack of 25 seeds goes for $3.45.

FIRECRACKER- This dwarf, branching variety is loaded with red and gold flowers. It also works well in containers, producing a mass of bright bicolored flowers. Plants will grow 2’-3’ tall and bloom in about 55 days. Packs of 50 seeds go for $3.95.

MOULIN ROUGE- This variety is a big hit with exquisite, deep burgundy petals surrounding an ebony center. It is pollenless, branching and blooms between 65 and 80 days. The side branches can get to be 30” long and the plant will grow to 60”-80”. Mix this variety in with other contrasting colors for super eye appeal. A pack of 50 seeds runs $3.45.

JOHNNY’S PRO CUT SERIES- These are tall with strong single stems. Flowers are pollenless and bloom in 50-60 days. Plants will grow 5’-6’ tall and come in 9 different colors. Check them out for sure! A pack of 30 seeds costs $3.45.


On the subject of flowers, our garden lecture this month on Oct. 20th will be on orchids. We have Dr. Ho and some of the Palomar Orchid Society coming to Sunshine Care to discuss everything orchids. Our garden lectures are always on the 3rd Saturday of each month where we educate, have refreshments and door prizes, and then take trips through our gardens. We start at 10:30 am. Come by and visit us. For more info, check our website www.sunshinecare.com or give me a call or email me.

Roy Wilburn, Director of Horticulture at Sunshine Care. (858) 472-6059 and This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


Roy Wilburn

Hello again fellow gardening enthusiasts and greetings from Sunshine Care, A Community of Assisted Living Homes, nestled in beautiful Poway, California.  Even though we are still in the winter season, the weather has been favorably mild this year.  Last month, we talked about pruning your roses and we even had a hands-on workshop to get local rose lovers a chance to learn by tending our roses.  We had a couple of Consulting Rosarians, from the San Diego Rose Society, share with us their knowledge on rose pruning and general care.  I’m feeling good, knowing that our 40 plus roses bushes are pruned correctly, fertilized with Dr. Earth Organic Rose Food and sprayed with liquid copper as a dormant spray.  I can already see the new blooms start to peek out, as they set forth to give our residents some beautiful flowers to enjoy in a couple of months.  In a similar fashion, all of our deciduous fruit trees are also pruned, fertilized and sprayed.  We will attack, in short order, our citrus trees once we finish the winter harvest.


As far as winter veggie production, we are still constantly harvesting broccoli, cauliflower, bok choy and romaine lettuce.  I shared some of our secrets on cole crop (cool season crop) production in our November and December blogs.  We will continue planting these crops through March, plus our spring goodies such as tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, green beans and eventually peppers.  Our greenhouse is packed with all these transplants.  Next month we will start talking about our spring vegetable production, but let me end our winter endeavors with a few unique crops related to the broccoli and cauliflower families.


At the end of last year, my friend Ramiro Lobo, a University of California Farm Advisor for San Diego County asked me if Sunshine Care would like to get involved with a project he was heading up in conjunction with Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing- The Original Ranch.  Hidden Valley has started a campaign and committed over 1 million dollars to schools and organizations across the U.S. Their goal is to help seed and grow a “Love for Veggies” in kids. We here at Sunshine Care are always excited about growing and eating our vegetables but we understand that kids might need a little more of a nudge. 


Ramiro knew that we are very active with local churches, schools and volunteer organizations within our organic fruit and vegetable production world.  On the first and third Thursdays of each month, we have a group of local children come to Sunshine Care and learned about the world of organics. We have a “Children’s Garden” on site and the youngsters handle all aspects of fruit and vegetable production.  We provide education so the kids learn to plant, weed, harvest and perform cultural practices. They play with worms, compost and eventually get to taste the produce they grew and take some to enjoy at home.  They work hard and it is a total joy to participate in the field with them.  After we are done in the field we go to the greenhouse where they bond with some of our residents, their “Grandmas and Grandpas”, and enjoy other activities with them such as seeding vegetable trays, watering plants in our greenhouse and releasing ladybugs to control possible aphid outbreaks. When we are done the residents are showered with Handshakes, High- Fives and the ever popular HUGS!  It’s a beautiful thing.


We agreed to get involved with the Hidden Valley project and the UC Cooperative Extension and called our project the “Great Veggie Adventure”.  The crops we are growing have a definite, different eye appeal, as far as veggies go.  They are meant to grab a kid’s attention. We are growing-


Veronica, a Romanesco lime-green spiraled cauliflower

Panther, another lime-green cauliflower, normal in shape

Graffiti, a purple- headed stunning cauliflower

Cheddar, a bright orange headed cauliflower

And a variety of colorful carrots and radishes.


Let’s go through these crops one by one.


Veronica Romanesco is actually a broccoli but referred to as a cauliflower.  Heads are pointed, spiraled pinnacles that are lime green in color.  For those of you that are a bit nerdish when it comes to math, the bud has an approximate, self-similar character.  The branching meristems form a logarithmic spiral.  In this sense the broccoli’s shape approximates a natural fractal.  Each bud is composed of a series of smaller buds, all arranged in yet another logarithmic spiral.  This self-similar pattern continues at several smaller levels.  Bottom line- IT IS WEIRD LOOKING AND DELICIOUS!!  Veronica is high in vitamins C and K, dietary fiber and carotenoids.  The heads have a milder flavor and are more creamy and nutty than conventional broccoli and cauliflower.


Panther, green cauliflower is easy to grow and produces a unique, tight lime-green head, 6”-7” wide, that holds well and tolerates cold weather stress.  They have a delicious mild flavor when cooked and a definite crowd pleaser and attention grabber when served fresh.


Graffiti, purple cauliflower is absolutely brilliant and stunning in color.  It tastes just like white cauliflower and it is a great colorful addition to your crudite platters.  It produces a true cauliflower head on large plants.  The purple color is caused by the presence of the antioxidant group, anthocyanin, which is also found in red cabbage and red wine.


Cheddar cauliflower is bright orange in color, like cheddar cheese.  The color indicates that the curd, or head, has elevated beta-carotene levels.  It is a medium –sized plant that produces smooth, domed heads.  This variety doesn’t require “blanching techniques” to obtain the deepest, orange color.  Cheddar cauliflower has 25 times the level of vitamin A over regular white cauliflower.


To grow these varieties requires exactly what most broccoli or cauliflower varieties need- soils rich in organic matter and well drained.  Refer to past blogs of October and November of last year on cool season crops, and grow them the same way.  To purchase seed, pull out your Johnny’s Selected Seed catalog and call them up.


Veronica seed is $5.95 and $7.95 per PKT of 100 seeds, depending if you want conventional or organic seed.


Panther seed will cost you $5.95 per PKT of 100 seeds.


Graffiti runs $7.95 per PKT of 100 seeds.


Cheddar cauliflower will set you back $12.95 per PKT of 100 seeds.


While you have your catalog out, look at all the varieties of colorful radishes and carrots.  Our kids love the Rainbow Carrot mix along with Atomic Red, Purple Haze and Deep Purple varieties.  As far as radishes, try the Red Meat, otherwise known as Watermelon Radish (50 days) and the Easter Egg multicolored variety (30 days).  These are no-brainers.  Work the soil, spread some seed, water and thin them out when about an inch tall according to the variety’s directions.  These are crops your children will get quick satisfaction growing and eating.


For those of you in the San Diego County area, I personally invite you to attend our February Garden Lecture on the 18th at 10:30 am, here at Sunshine Care.  We will be covering all the cool season and spring crops, we grow for our residents.  Our workshops are free and include refreshments, raffle prizes and end with a tour of our gardens and orchards.  So bring a friend and come on by.


Call me, Roy Wilburn, Director of Horticulture (858) 472-6059 or e-mail me This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or contact Lisa Lipsey, Director of Community Relations (858) 752-8197 or e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , for more info and to RSVP.If you can’t make it, we would be happy to show you around anytime at your convenience. Hope to hear from you soon!

About the Author
Farmer Roy
Since 2010, Farmer Roy Wilburn has been Sunshine Care’s Director of Horticulture. You can usually find Roy in one of the five organic gardens, producing high quality organic fruits and vegetables for the residents and those in need in the Poway area. Roy maintains Sunshine Care’s beautiful greenhouse, fruit tree orchards, Memorial Rose Garden and the landscaping of its 32-acre facility. Roy is a regular guest speaker about numerous horticultural topics.
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