Ask a Question forum: Lawn overrun with Sunflowers, How to start over?

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Name: Gabe
Longmont, Colorado
Aug 5, 2016 2:23 PM CST
Hi There,

My wife and I bought a house in February, and the back yard at the time looked barren. Come springtime however, It turns out there were sunflowers all over the yard. And I mean ALL over. There are about 10 every squart foot, and they're 6 feet tall. We had hopes of putting in a nice lawn back there, but now we have to deal with this first. My question is what's the best way to get rid of the sunflowers (and preferably anything else there, although the sunflowers are the main flora) and make sure they don't come back, setting the foundation for me to put in some grass? The best plan I've come up with is to cut them all down with a machete and maybe cover the lawn with peat or like a thin cloth to keep sunlight away from anything still in there, but I sort of doubt that will work.

Can anyone give me advice how to go about this, what tools I'd need, and where to begin? I added some pictures to show the scale of the problem.


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Name: Kent Pfeiffer
Southeast Nebraska (Zone 5b)
Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Plant Database Moderator Plant Identifier Region: Nebraska Forum moderator
Garden Sages Garden Ideas: Master Level Irises Celebrating Gardening: 2015
Aug 5, 2016 2:32 PM CST

Plants Admin

Those are annual sunflowers, so all you should need to do is shred them off, perhaps do a little bit of tillage to get good bare dirt, and plant your grass this fall. There will likely be some new ones that sprout next spring but, assuming you keep your new grass mowed, they will eventually give up and die.
Name: stone
near Macon Georgia (USA) (Zone 8a)
Plant Identifier Garden Sages
Aug 5, 2016 4:51 PM CST
Those sunflowers are gorgeous!
How are you not pleased?
Are you seeing butterflies?
When the petals fall off, you should see goldfinches and cardinals...
A beautiful wildlife garden...
Name: Sue Taylor
Northumberland, UK
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Aug 6, 2016 12:45 AM CST
I think this could be Helianthus tuberosus, Jerusalem artichoke. I would dig some up and see if there are any tubers attached. If so they will be much more difficult to get rid of.
Name: Lin
Sebastian, Florida (Zone 10a)

Region: United States of America Bookworm Keeper of Koi Morning Glories Region: Florida Houseplants
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Aug 6, 2016 5:08 AM CST
I agree with kniphofia, digging a few to check for those tubers will tell if it's Sunroots (Helianthus tuberosus)
~ Eat, Sleep .... Play in the dirt ~
Name: Tiffany purpleinopp
Opp, AL ๐ŸŒต๐ŸŒทโš˜๐ŸŒน๐ŸŒป (Zone 8b)
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Aug 6, 2016 5:37 AM CST
Hi & welcome! I can't imagine wanting to get rid of pretty flowers and put grass on purpose. Grass is so expensive and time consuming to mow, and there's pollution if you use a gas-powered mower. None of your weekends in your new home have been wasted on that awful task.

If the flowers are perennials, someone would probably be more than happy to dig them up for you.
๐Ÿ‘€๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ˜‚ - SMILE! -โ˜บ๐Ÿ˜Žโ˜ปโ˜ฎ๐Ÿ‘ŒโœŒโˆžโ˜ฏ๐Ÿฃ๐Ÿฆ๐Ÿ”๐Ÿ๐Ÿฏ๐Ÿพ
The less I interfere, the more balance mother nature provides.
๐Ÿ‘’๐ŸŽ„๐Ÿ‘ฃ๐Ÿก๐Ÿƒ๐Ÿ‚๐ŸŒพ๐ŸŒฟ๐Ÿโฆโง ๐Ÿƒ๐Ÿ๐Ÿ‚๐ŸŒพ๐ŸŒป๐ŸŒธ๐ŸŒผ๐ŸŒน๐ŸŒฝโ€โ˜€๐ŸŒบ
โ˜•๐Ÿ‘“ The only way to succeed is to try.
[Last edited by purpleinopp - Aug 6, 2016 5:49 AM (+)]
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Name: Kent Pfeiffer
Southeast Nebraska (Zone 5b)
Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Plant Database Moderator Plant Identifier Region: Nebraska Forum moderator
Garden Sages Garden Ideas: Master Level Irises Celebrating Gardening: 2015
Aug 6, 2016 6:07 AM CST

Plants Admin

Jerusalem artichokes have opposite leaves that are 2 to 3 times longer than they are wide, while the sunflowers in the picture have very broad, alternate leaves. Also, the disk florets on Jerusalem artichoke are typically yellow or, at most, a light reddish brown as opposed to the dark brown disk florets easily visible in the pictures.
Name: Elaine
South Sarasota, Florida (Zone 9b)
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Aug 6, 2016 9:11 AM CST
Assuming, as we are (Kent is always right on with his ID's) that they are an annual sunflower, my advice would be to leave them be until the end of summer BUT by all means cut off any flowers that are spent before they spread any more seeds!

Since you really can't lay sod or seed a new lawn until fall anyway, (it's too hot) leaving them to be pretty for another month or two will prevent you from having to weed and mow what comes up if you remove them.

When it's time to get rid of them to make your lawn, I'd water generously, then pull them all. I mean, if you sprayed them or cut them down, you'd still have to get rid of the dead stems and root systems anyway. They'll be pretty easy to remove if the ground is moist. I had a stand of annual sunflowers as an experiment last year, and they came out easily, even standing 9ft. tall.

You could possibly hire a couple of local teenagers to do the pulling for you, too. I'd advise you to offer them a flat rate to do the whole job, though. Offering an hourly rate just makes them work more slowly. (from much experience here, too!)

All that being said, if it were my yard, I would just clear a small area near the house for lawn (if you must have some lawn) and leave a generous border for the sunflowers to come back next year. It looks to me as if they are providing you with some nice privacy from the neighbors right now and are also much more low maintenance than a lawn will be.

It's an outdated notion that a gracious garden must have lawn. It's very costly and work-intensive to grow, and everything you have to do to make it grow is bad for the environment as well. Mowing, watering, fertilizer, weed killer, fungicide, bug killer plus the cost of the equipment to mow and edge. Not for me! I have no lawn inside my fence, and my neighbor mows the weedy verges of the road for me with his rider mower in exchange for free well water.

"Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm." โ€“Winston Churchill

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