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December usually slowest month for housing market | North Salem Realtor

  • December is usually the slowest month for the housing market, but this season is not so normal. Some unique dynamics may make this December one of the better times to both buy and sell a home.
  • First and foremost, mortgage rates are turning what was a red-hot market into a lukewarm market, and that is motivating buyers more than usual.
  • Rates are now about a full percentage point higher than they were a year ago, hovering now just below 5 percent. They are expected to move higher in 2019, however.
H/O: Winter Housing market Chicago suburb  1
A real estate agent shows a home in a Chicago suburb.
Photo: Larry Collins

December is usually the slowest month for the housing market, but this season is not so normal. Some unique dynamics may make this December one of the better times to both buy and sell a home.

First and foremost, mortgage rates are turning what was a red-hot market into a lukewarm market, and that is motivating buyers more than usual. That’s because home prices ran up so far so fast during the recent historic housing shortage, that higher rates are having an outsized impact.

Real estate agent Lynn Fairfield of Re/Max Suburban held an open house Sunday in suburban Chicago, and rates were front and center in the living room conversations.

“I see more people buying right now because they’re afraid rates will be higher in 2019,” said Fairfield.

The average rate on the 30-year fixed spiked this past fall, after flatlining over the summer. Rates are now about a full percentage point higher than they were a year ago, hovering now just below 5 percent. They are expected to move higher in 2019, however.

Combine that with strong home price appreciation over the past two years, and some buyers, especially first-timers, have now hit an affordability wall. That is why sales of both new and existing homes have been weaker for several months, but that also presents an opportunity for buyers. Prices are finally starting to ease — or, at least, the gains are shrinking.

Prices are usually lower in the winter months, in fact 18 percent lower in the Chicago area on average than at the peak of the market in June, according to Re/Max. So add higher rates to that, and sellers will have to be more flexible this year. The sky is no longer the limit. Not even close.

“The housing market always lets up a little in the fall, when kids are back in school and the home shopping season wraps up for the holidays,” said Aaron Terrazas, senior economist at Zillow. “But this fall and winter are shaping up to be more favorable for those buyers who have struggled to get into the housing market for several years amid red-hot competition.”

Zillow is seeing a sharp increase in the share of properties with price cuts, even in overheated markets like Seattle, Las Vegas and Boston.

H/O: Winter Housing market Chicago suburb 
Real estate agent Lynn Fairfield, with RE/MAX Suburban, shows a home in a Chicago suburb.
Photo: Larry Collins

Of course the number of new listings are the lowest in December, as a new home is not traditionally a holiday gift, and anyone with children doesn’t want to move during the school year.

“Though the holiday season is not going to give you plenty of options to choose from, there are reasons why you should NOT put your home search on hold for the holidays,” said Danielle Hale, chief economist at Realtor.com. “Chief among them, December is the best time of year if you want to avoid competitions.”

Views per property are 21 percent lower in December than they are during the rest of the year, according to Realtor.com.

While supply and competition may both be at their low point, motivation is at its high point, for both buyers and sellers.

“That buyer has to move. Either they have a lease expiring Jan. 1, or they have saved enough money for their down payment, so they are motivated to buy,” said Fairfield. “A lot of people are more motivated price-wise from the selling standpoint too, because they too want to get to their next location.”

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Mortgage Rates Up Again | North Salem Real Estate

Freddie Mac today released the results of its Primary Mortgage Market Survey® (PMMS®), showing average fixed mortgage rates moving higher amid a strong employment report. Regardless, fixed-rate mortgages rates still remain near their May 23, 2013 lows.

News Facts

  • 30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) averaged 3.76 percent with an average 0.6 point for the week ending February 19, 2015, up from last week when it averaged 3.69 percent. A year ago at this time, the 30-year FRM averaged 4.33 percent.
  • 15-year FRM this week averaged 3.05 percent with an average 0.6 point, up from last week when it averaged 2.99 percent. A year ago at this time, the 15-year FRM averaged 3.35 percent.
  • 5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) averaged 2.97 percent this week with an average 0.5 point, unchanged from last week. A year ago, the 5-year ARM averaged 3.08 percent.
  • 1-year Treasury-indexed ARM averaged 2.45 percent this week with an average 0.4 point, up from last week when it averaged 2.42 percent. At this time last year, the 1-year ARM averaged 2.57 percent.

Average commitment rates should be reported along with average fees and points to reflect the total upfront cost of obtaining the mortgage. Visit the following links for theRegional and National Mortgage Rate Details and Definitions. Borrowers may still pay closing costs which are not included in the survey.

Attributed to Len Kiefer, deputy chief economist, Freddie Mac.

“Mortgage rates rose for the second consecutive week as 10-year Treasury yields surged. Housing starts declined 2 percent to a seasonally adjusted pace of 1.065 million units and housing permits dipped 0.7 percent in January. However, homebuilders remain confident about new home sales although slightly tempered from last month as the NAHB Housing Market Index slipped 2 points to 55 in February.”

Realtors expect median home prices to rise 4% | North Salem Real Estate


Realtors expect home prices to continue to appreciate over the next year, with a median price increase expected of 4% over the next 12 months, according to the latest survey of the National Association of Realtors in their confidence index.

The index reflects the responses of more than 3,000 NAR members about their sales transactions.

The full report can be read here.

“Slower sales due to tight credit conditions, declining affordability due to the recent price growth amid modest income gains, and fewer distressed sales likely account for the modest expectations,” economists note in the report.

Some states are slightly more optimistic about home price increases, such as in Florida, where low housing inventories and high demand are expected to boost prices.



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Sail Away on This ‘Temple of Light’ Houseboat For $1.095M | North Salem Real Estate


Docked in  Sausalito, Calif. and newly on the market for $1.095M, this utterly sweet Temple of Light listing combines all the seafaring fun of living aboard a houseboat with the tranquility of bunking down in one’s very own temple. While the brokerbabble fails to confirm whether the three-bedroom, 1,743-square-foot home has ever actually functioned as a meeting place religious practice, the “light” part of the hippie-esque name makes total sense, considering just how much natural sunlight the A-frame design provides. Huge skylights cover each slanting ceiling, while one entire end of the house is capped in floor-to-ceiling glass, providing both access to the jacuzzi-equipped porch and killer lake views. Take a look at the cozy home, below…





The 15 Most Common WordPress Mistakes to Avoid | North Salem Realtor


A very old and famous saying, “to err is human and to forgive is divine“, is absolutely true. We all  make mistakes, because none of us is perfect. Whether it’s real life or  WordPress, mistakes happen everywhere. To commit a mistake is not a crime,  however, not learning from it and not trying to repeat it again definitely is.  Everyone learn from their mistakes, but it’s much better to learn from the  others’ mistakes.

In the case of WordPress, the primary focus of a novice is to set everything  up and get things running as soon as possible. In this hurry, there are quite a  few things that are ignored which may lead to numerous security vulnerabilities  and affect your blog/site in the long run. In this article, we’ve outlined 15 of  the most common WordPress mistakes that almost every one of us makes in the  beginning.

Hopefully, everyone will use this guide to avoid the same blunders and make  their WordPress site better, faster and more secure and of course a success.

#1. Choosing the wrong platform

Free WordPress.com or self hosted WordPress.org? Most of the WordPress  beginners often get confused between these two, and it’s one of the most common  mistakes, which is seen among beginners. While you’re going to start out as a  beginner, it’s extremely crucial to know what’s the difference between them and  which one can be the right choice for your new WordPress blog.

As both of them have their own pros and cons, it’s a big challenge for you to  decide which option is perfect for you. WordPress.com (run by the folks at Automattic) is most suitable  for bloggers, photographers, and artists – almost everyone. On the other hand,  WordPress.org is made for those who like to have total control over their  websites. Whatever option you choose, be careful.

#2. Forgetting to change the default admin username

When you install WordPress, it automatically creates the username “admin” with administrator privileges. It’s the username that is  obviously predictable to hackers. Using the “admin” username, they can  easily perform a brute force attack to crack your login and take control over  your site.

As WordPress gives you the option to change the username during installation,  it doesn’t make sense to stick with the default one. Therefore, while installing  WordPress, make sure to change your default WordPress admin username to a  different username. Also, use a combination of numbers, letters and special  characters in your username and password.

#3. Using an inappropriate or defective theme

Choosing the perfect theme is a crucial thing that decides the future  your WordPress blog. You wouldn’t believe that the structure of your design  plays a vital role in search engine rankling. There are three things you should  keep in mind while picking a theme – the ease of use for you, a reasonable  price, and a reputed company.

If you’re looking for a free WordPress theme, then there is no better option  than WordPress Themes  Directory. But if you’re interested in purchasing a commercial theme, we  recommend you to give a try to any one of these trusted theme providers: Elegant Themes, StudioPress, Headway Themes, Themify,  or ithemes.




Read more at http://www.jeffbullas.com/2014/04/14/the-15-most-common-wordpress-mistakes-to-avoid/#H1OBorvdkX7JVA8o.99

Adorable $995K Mendocino Renovation Will Warm the Heart | North Salem Real Estate


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Location: Mendocino, Calif. Price: $995,000 The Skinny: This completely renovated early 1900s home in Mendocino Village has just jumped into the lead in the early running for Most Totally Adorable House of the Year, with its nautically themed loft master bedroom (it’s got an en suite clawfoot tub!) and impossibly quaint backyard writer’s retreat. Which is plenty cute, to be sure, but the kitchen’s blue beadboard cabinetry and the front yard rope swings with ocean views—not to mention the rustic nearby water tower—put it firmly over the top. Despite all this welcome whimsy, the brokerbabble tries to milk the place for it-was-a-dark-and-stormy-night melodrama: “And when those North Coast storms blow, you’ll be safe and warm snuggled up in front of a beautiful river rock fireplace with a front row seat as the drama unfolds outside.” Well, sure. Or you could be soaking in the clawfoot tub with a fleet of model boats and a bottle of grog, reenacting Nelson’s glorious victory at the Battle of Trafalgar, because in a house this twee, well, coffee and blankets in front of the fire betrays a pitiful lack of imagination. For those willing to rise to the challenge, the three-bedroom home—and its red outhouse door—is asking $995,000.



Douglas Elliman lists 87-Acre Ridgefield Equestrian Facility For $55 Million | North Salem Real Estate

Double H Farm, a 87-acre Olympic equestrian training facility and family home in Ridgefield, has hit the market for $55 million.

Canada’s top-earning CEO, Hunter Harrison, who heads Canadian Pacific Railroad, owns the property. He purchased the dairy farm in 2005 and transformed it into one of the country’s leading equestrian facilities. The property is listed with Sally Slater of Douglas Elliman Real Estate.

Double H Farm farm extends over 97 acres of rolling hills and vast fenced grass paddocks with never-ending views and dramatic sunsets. It has six bedrooms, seven bathrooms and 14,250 square feet of living space.

The circa-1765 property is rich in history. Formerly known as the McKeon Farm, it was the oldest working dairy farm in Ridgefield. Conservation property is adjacent to the farm.

Since 2005 the farm has undergone a series of renovations to turn it into a world-class Olympic-level equestrian facility and dream estate.

The house was built in 2009. Framed with vintage, reconditioned barn beams from Vermont, the entire house incorporates green technology, geothermal heating and air conditioning systems and radiant heat in the floors. An elevator goes to all levels of the home.

The living room has 38-foot ceilings, a massive limestone and fieldstone gas fireplace highlighted by a scaffolding of barn beams and a wall of glass overlooking the property. The formal dining room has cove lighting and a gas fireplace. The eat-in gourmet kitchen and family room has an informal dining area, top-of-the-line appliances and a massive center island. The fully outfitted outdoor kitchen is built into the screened porch off the kitchen. There is also an office with a gas fireplace.

The first floor houses the luxurious master bedroom with 20-foot domed ceilings, Venetian plaster walls, a limestone fireplace, a large marble bath with two showers, a hot tubs boise (Jacuzzi), a gas fireplace and his and hers closets in addition to a safe room.

The lower level features a state-of-the-art media room with a gas fireplace and a 105-inch plasma television, wine cellar, sauna, golf room with a putting green and golf simulator and a massage room/gym with a bath and steam shower.

The seven-car garage includes mahogany decks with two stone fire pits, a Jacuzzi spa with a waterfall, a Koi pond, an audio-visual room and a  “home networking’ system to work every system in the house.

An additional four-bedroom home and the totally renovated historical home, dating from 1765, grace the property sharing views past the pool and tennis court of a bucolic pond and paddocks.  Surrounding conservation land protects this special property for posterity.

Double H Farm features two barns with more than 40 stalls. The main barn has 20 spacious and airy stalls, four grooming and wash stalls in addition to laundry, tack and feed rooms. There are three staff apartments with living rooms and kitchens. The second barn, built for the breeding operation, has 14 stalls and two grooming and wash stalls.

For complete information on the property, view the listing website.


Princess Firyal’s Pierre duplex hits the market for $70M | North Salem NY Homes


A sprawling Upper East Side home believed to belong to HRH Princess Firyal of Jordan is once again on the market — this time, with an asking price of $70 million.

The duplex apartment, which spans the 30th and 31st floors of the Pierre at 795 Fifth Avenue, was owned by the late financier Lionel Pincus and later handed over to the Jordanian princess, Pincus’ longtime companion. The luxurious 7,000-square-foot, five-bedroom home boasts 360-degree views of Central Park and the Manhattan skyline, a 42-foot library along Fifth Avenue and two master bedroom suites with custom wood-paneled dressing rooms and marble baths, according to the listing. Sotheby’s International Realty broker Serena Boardman has the listing.

Boardman declined to comment for this story, and a spokesperson for Sotheby’s declined to confirm the seller’s identity. Calls and emails to Firyal’s publicist were not immediately returned.

Pincus, who co-founded private equity firm Warburg Pincus, was incapacitated in 2003. His sons listed the apartment in 2007 for $50 million, claiming the upkeep was too expensive. They listed it again In March 2008 for $35 million.



Senate confirms Mel Watt as next FHFA director | North Salem Realtor

It’s official: Congressman Mel Watt, D-N.C., will lead the Federal Housing Finance Agency after the U.S. Senate confirmed his nomination Tuesday afternoon.

Senators confirmed Watt as Ed DeMarco’s replacement, with a majority of the chamber’s legislators voting in Watt’s favor. The congressman easily obtained 57 votes, with 41 Senators voting against the appointment.

Ed DeMarco, who has served as acting director of the FHFA ever since the GSEs entered conservatorship, has long staved off attempts to use the agency as an instrument for enacting principal write-downs to help underwater borrowers.

The market has had plenty of time to get used to a Watt appointment, but he’s still viewed as a major sea change for the conservator of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Housing advocates praised the move on the grounds that Watt is more likely to grant some form of additional housing aid, either through an expanded Home Affordable Refinance Program or principal write-downs. But the mortgage industry — especially investors in residential mortgage-backed securities — remain guarded about the prospect of Watt at the helm.
“The FHFA director has the power to help rebuild local economies and communities through direct action and administrative reforms, and we’re confident Mel Watt will do just that,” said Alan Jenkins, executive director of The Opportunity Agenda, a group that advocates for expanding homeownership.

Elyse Cherry, CEO of Boston Community Capital, a firm that successfully enacted a principal reduction-shared appreciation program to help underwater borrowers, is a strong supporter of Watt’s.

“I am glad the Senate is moving forward with Mr. Watt’s confirmation to the FHFA,” Cherry said. “For too long, our policy at this agency has been headed in the wrong direction for the wrong reasons, and Mr. Watt’s nomination is a chance to turn things around.”

But the Watt nomination certainly drew its fair share of skeptics from day one. With Mel Watt often viewed as more of a political figurehead, the mortgage industry was less receptive to the president’s pick at first.

Several months ago, when Watt was first in consideration, Edward Mills, a senior vice president at FBR Capital Markets, said the president’s DeMarco replacement pick would raise eyebrows on Wall Street.

“One of the hallmarks of the DeMarco tenure is that he was a nonpolitical figure before accepting this job,” said Mills. “Since then, he has taken his stand as conservator very seriously and has been resistant to pressure from the Hill,” he added.




Learn the history and get tips and tricks for growing sunflowers | North Salem Real Estate

History of the Sunflower

Like corn and dry beans, the sunflower (Helianthus annuus) is native  to North America, and was first domesticated by Native Americans in Arizona and  New Mexico around 3000 bc. They cultivated the sunflower for its seeds, which  they pounded into meal for cakes, mush, and bread; the oil from the seeds was  rubbed onto their skin and hair. Spanish explorers first encountered these  strikingly beautiful plants early in the sixteenth century on their forays  northward into what was to become the American Southwest. By 1550, sunflowers  had been brought back to Spain and Mediterranean Europe for use as an ornamental  flower, and the culture then spread eastward to Egypt, India, and Russia. In  1716, the English patented a process for squeezing oil from sunflower seeds. The  Russians, however, deserve credit for turning sunflowers into a food crop.

Russian Influence

Olive oil was the natural choice for cooking in Southern Europe because the  olive tree was so well suited to the warm, arid climate of the Mediterranean  basin. But Russia was not blessed with the same climate, which meant that it had  to import oil from the south. When Russians discovered that copious amounts of  oil could be pressed from sunflower seeds, the crop took the country by storm.  By the eighteenth century, sunflowers were being extensively cultivated in  Russia as an oilseed crop. Peter the Great was a great champion of sunflowers,  and the Russian Orthodox Church forbade the consumption of all oils except  sunflower during Lent. There is historic evidence of commercial oil production  in Russia as early as 1769. Russian farmers and plant breeders should be given  credit for selecting and improving sunflowers and turning them into a field  crop. Yields and standability increased at the same time as a sunflower oil  industry developed. By the nineteenth century, Russia had become a major  exporter of sunflower oil to Europe; two million acres of sunflowers were being  grown there at the time. Some of the sunflower varieties that we grow in our  gardens today, like Mammoth Russian and Black Giant, were actually developed  centuries ago north of the Black Sea in Russia. These varieties were rather  noteworthy at the time because of their almost two-foot-diameter seed heads.

Interest in cultivating sunflowers began to grow here in North America during  the 1880s. Progressive plantsmen and other forward-thinking individuals of the  era turned to Russia for improved varieties of the very sunflowers that had  originated here hundreds of years earlier. Missouri seems to have been one of  the first areas in the United States to widely adopt the crop. A growers’ association was established in 1926, followed shortly after by the first  commercial production of sunflower oil in the country. Sunflower seed was also  brought into Canada by Russian immigrants who settled on the prairies. A  sunflower-breeding program was initiated by the Canadian government in 1930; the  plant breeding material came from Russian Mennonite immigrants. Canada’s first  sunflower-seed-oil-crushing plant came online in 1946. Due to its popularity  north of the border and the ideal climate of the high plains, sunflower acreage  soon spread southward into the wheat country of northwestern Minnesota and North  Dakota. This area has remained the epicenter of sunflower culture since World  War II.

The Rise of the Hybrid Sunflowers

Sunflowers remained a relatively minor crop throughout the 1950s and 1960s  because demand for the oil was not great and efficient harvesting machinery had  not yet been developed. Acreage continued to increase slowly in the Canadian  prairie provinces, and the Canadian government licensed the Russian variety  Peredovik for widespread planting in 1964. The most amazing thing about  sunflower culture in North America during this era was that only open-pollinated  nonhybrid varieties were being planted by farmers. Hybrid corn — produced by  crossing one corn variety with a mate that had been detasseled — had been the  norm since the late 1930s, but this was not the case for sunflowers. This  process couldn’t be done with sunflowers because there was no way to turn one  plant into a male and another into a female. But this all changed in the 1970s  when sunflower breeders were finally able to isolate cytoplasmic male sterile  lines to use as the female parent in the hybridization process. The very first  sunflower hybrids were released in the mid-’70s. This corresponded with an  increased public acceptance of vegetable oils as animal fats declined in  popularity. European demand for sunflower oil had also begun to outstrip Russian  production, and with new higher-producing sunflower hybrids and an extra-strong  demand for oil in Southern Europe, American farmers began to plant more acres of  this crop than ever before. The US yearly production finally exceeded five  million acres for the first time in the late 1970s. Sunflower production had  finally emerged from inconsequence.

Sunflowers have really come into their own since the first hybrids were  released in the 1970s. Growing crops that would stand up to blustery fall winds  had always been a problem in the early days of sunflower growing, and anyone who  has ever grown open-pollinated Mammoth Russian sunflowers in their garden knows  how these tall plants with their top-heavy seed heads like to fall over once  they begin to ripen. Since hybrid sunflowers are much shorter in stature and  have stronger stalks, they will stand well into late fall, which allows for  excellent in-field drying and an easier harvest; potential yields have increased  to more than a ton to the acre under ideal growing conditions. However, the most  important advances that have been made in sunflower breeding have been in the  disease- and pest-resistance departments.

Sunflowers have always been a prime target for a host of fungal and bacterial  attacks, from white mold to anthracnose. Insects are also a major concern. But  modern hybrid varieties have been selected and bred to withstand some of these  pressures.

The heart of sunflower culture in the United States is in the northern  plains. Sixty percent of the crop is grown in northwestern Minnesota and North  Dakota, and all of the advances that have been made in breeding sunflowers have  been made in this area as well. The USDA has a sunflower-breeding station in  Fargo, North Dakota; North Dakota State University (NDSU) is also quite active  in developing new and improved sunflower varieties. A small number of seed  companies breed and distribute sunflower seed in the area, most of them located  on the Minnesota side of the Red River. Dahlgren of Crookston, Minnesota, is one  of the oldest sunflower seed companies and can be credited with many of the  early advances in hybridization. Croplan Genetics of Mentor, Minnesota, a  division of Land O’Lakes, is a major supplier of seed to the market. Seeds 2000  in Breckenridge, Minnesota, is a newer company that is leading the way with a  lineup of certified organic sunflower seed. If you are seriously interested in  raising sunflowers, you will have to source seed from this part of the country,  but all of these outfits have some untreated conventional seed. Most companies  are willing to take your credit card number, box up a bag of seed, and send out  to us here in the Northeast by UPS.


Types of Sunflowers


Before you order seed, it might be a good idea to familiarize yourself with  all the different options out there in the world of sunflowers. Why do you want  to grow sunflowers and what do you plan to do with them once they are harvested?  There are two basic types of sunflowers — black oil seed and confectionary.  Confectionary sunflower seeds are larger (eight to twelve millimeters) and have  a characteristic white stripe running across their outer seed coat. Because they  are larger and contain more inner “meat,” these seeds are hulled to make the  sunflower seeds we eat as snack food. Confectionary sunflowers contain only 30  to 40 percent oil. For some reason, they seem to grow better out in North Dakota  than here; in addition, hulling sunflower seeds is even more specialized and  difficult than hulling oats or spelt. The infrastructure and knowledge for  hulling confectionary sunflower seeds simply does not exist out east. As far as  I know, no one has successfully managed to produce snack food sunflower seeds  here in our region. This certainly doesn’t mean that it cannot be done, but it  will take more experimentation with varieties and hulling equipment. Black  oilseed sunflowers, however, seem to be more reliable and easier to produce here  in our region. Their seeds are much smaller in size (4.5 to 8 millimeters) and  contain from 46 to 50 percent oil. These are the same all-black seeds that are  sold for bird feeding. Black oil sunflowers contain less inner meat and are not  recommended for hulling. The production of oil for human consumption and the  resulting by-product of oilseed cake for livestock feeding is the primary end  use for sunflowers grown here in the northeastern United States.

Until recently, the oil that was pressed from black oil sunflower seeds was  linoleic oil. Linoleic sunflower oil has about 69 percent polyunsaturated fat,  20 percent monounsaturated fat, and 11 percent saturated fat. The linoleic  component is a good source of omega-6 fatty acids. There are also some  traditional sunflower varieties that are considered high oleic. The oil that is  pressed from these seeds has at least 80 percent monounsaturated fat and is  quite high in omega-9 fatty acids. Because of competition from and lost market  share to the olive oil industry, the National Sunflower Association began a  breeding program in 1995 to develop a mid-oleic sunflower oil that contained  higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids. New sunflower varieties were released onto  the market in 1996 with the trademarked name of NuSun. This oil is nutritionally  superior and better for you, and hydrogenation is not required to make this oil  compatible with commercial frying. It is very stable and resists the oxygenation  that produces rancidity. By 2007, 85 percent of the sunflower oil market was  dominated by NuSun mid-oleic oil. If you have the opportunity to buy seeds of a  NuSun variety, don’t be afraid of the newfangled nomenclature. It is truly  superior oil seed that has been developed by traditional plant-breeding  methods.


Sunflower Culture


Sunflowers have many cultural similarities to corn. They grow best when  planted in well-drained loam soils, and both crops are lovers of sunshine. Corn  transforms sunlight, water, and air into starch and carbohydrates; sunflowers  photosynthesize these same substances in the presence of sunshine into  high-quality oil and protein. Nitrogen is required for the production of  protein, and one of the major differences between the two crops is that a corn  plant will gobble up an inordinate amount of available nitrogen from the soil  environment while sunflowers grow quite well with more moderate nitrogen levels.  A soil rich in the humic substances that slowly release smaller amounts of  nitrogen is best suited for sunflowers. But too much nitrogen is just as harmful  to a sunflower crop as too little. I can speak from personal experience in this  department. Several years ago, I fertilized a small sunflower planting with  profuse amounts of dairy manure. For a while, I thought I had done the right  thing — the growing crop seemed like it was making more progress than  neighboring fields that had not been so heavily fertilized. But after the field  flowered and began to ripen, stalks began breaking. More and more plants fell  over every day, and by harvesttime over half of the sunflowers had fallen to the  ground. Sunflowers are a taprooted crop with an uncanny ability to scavenge  nitrogen and water from deep within the soil profile, so adequate levels of  other essential elements like potassium, magnesium, and phosphorous are just as  important as nitrogen to a sunflower crop. Small amounts of a balanced mineral  fertilizer and a light coating of compost or aged manure should be all that is  necessary. Follow the recommendations of your soil test and limit nitrogen  inputs to no more than eighty units to the  acre.


Choosing the Right Sunflower Variety


Most of us will be planting hybrid sunflowers, and believe it or not, some of  the companies out there are beginning to offer organically grown seed, Seeds  2000 and Blue River Hybrids among them. If you can’t find organic seed, though,  try to buy seed that is untreated. When I first began growing sunflowers in  1998, untreated seed was rare. Because sunflowers grown out in the high plains  are afflicted with so many diseases, seed treatment with fungicides is standard  fare. Thankfully, the organic movement has now grown enough in importance and  market share that seed companies are offering untreated seed as a common  practice. If you find a variety that works well for you, it might be a good idea  to contact your dealer or seed company and reserve untreated seed well in  advance of the coming season. These companies clean and process seed all through  the winter, and a simple early reservation will ensure that you will have the  seed you want the following May when it comes time to plant.

Make sure to choose a variety that fits your growing environment and  microclimate. Hybrid sunflowers are usually classified as short, medium, or full  season. I usually plant sunflowers that are short to medium season because of my  northerly mountainous location. As with any of the crops harvested in October or  November, sunflowers are subject to the weather. Cold rain, snow, and wind are  of course imminent at harvesttime, and dry-down can be slow or nonexistent when  the weather begins to deteriorate. When that two- or three-day window of sunny  weather arrives in mid-October, you want your sunflowers to be dry and ready for  combining. Not much is worse than having a high-yielding crop out there in the  field that is still mushy and not yet ready to harvest when opportunity presents  itself. Once again, I can speak from experience on this subject. It’s better to  have a moderate harvest safely in the bin than it is to have a great harvest out  there being eaten by birds or knocked over by wind and snow. If you are new to  growing sunflowers and want to experiment a little before diving in headfirst, I  recommend doing your own little variety trial. Obtain small amounts of seed for  five or six different hybrid sunflower varieties from several different  companies. Plant out everything side by side in a small plot and evaluate the  performance of the hybrids on your farm. By autumn, the varieties that shine in  your environment will stand out. You will then be able to plant your chosen  variety with confidence in the next growing season.


Growing Sunflowers


Sunflowers usually do well after a nitrogen-contributing crop like sod or  soybeans. Some professional crop advisers don’t like to see sunflowers planted  after soybeans because of the risk of white mold infection. If you saw any white  mold (sclerotinia) in the previous year’s soybeans, don’t plant sunflowers in  the same field, as sunflowers are very susceptible to this fungus. Work the land  into a friable seedbed that is smooth and free of clods before heading to the  field to plant. Sunflowers can go into the ground in mid-May just before the  danger of spring frost has disappeared. Most are seeded in thirty-inch rows with  a conventional corn planter. Field populations are just a bit lower than what  would be normal for corn. Whereas thirty-two thousand plants to the acre might  be an acceptable population for a crop of corn, twenty-five thousand would be  better for sunflowers. This means spacing plants eight to ten inches apart  instead of the six inches that’s standard for a corn crop. John Deere plateless  planters with finger-pickup seed dispensation are perfectly suited to planting  sunflowers without any modification. The only adjustment necessary is to reduce  the depth of planting to one and a half inches and to back off the amount of  seed planted.

If sunflowers are planted too thick, they won’t thrive. Heads will be small  and stalks weak. Traditional plate planters need a bit more modification to  plant sunflowers. First, check the tag on the bag to find out what size of  sunflower seeds you have purchased. Number two is the largest sunflower seed and  number five, the smallest. Once you know the seed size, you can choose the  proper plate by looking at a chart on the back of the bag. Medium and large  seeds travel through seed plates much more uniformly than the smallest seeds.  Sunflower seed plates are quite thin and very specialized. For proper planting,  they require an additional filler ring under the main plate to take up extra  space. Make sure to position the filler ring under the seed plate and not above  it. I made this mistake once. I wondered why there was no seed coming out of the  planter, and when I stopped to inspect, I found that I had put everything  together in the wrong order. No matter what kind of planter you use, it is best  to take it for a dry run on a driveway or another hard-packed surface to make  sure that you are laying down the right amount of seed. Count the number of  seeds in seventeen and a half feet of row and multiply by a thousand to  determine the number of plants to the acre. Last but not least, make sure the  soil temperature is at least fifty degrees before beginning to plant  sunflowers.


Germination and Early-Season Weed Control


The period between planting and emergence is an ideal time to practice  aggressive weed control. Constantly monitor the germination process underground  by digging around for sprouted seeds. If you see a big flush of weeds coming,  don’t be afraid to pull a spike drag around the field on a sunny dry day to kill  weed rootlets in the white hair stage. A tine weeder like a Kovar or Einbock  will also do the trick, especially if the sunflower sprout is close to breaking  through the ground. Post-emergence tine weeding is a little trickier. Sunflowers  sprout in much the same manner as a dry bean or soybean. At emergence, you will  first notice two little cotyledons; these are closely followed by the first true  leaves. At the same time, the plant is beginning to sink a small taproot. It’s  important to wait for the appearance of the first two true leaves before  charging through the field with your tine weeder. If you do plan to tine weed  your sunflowers, you might want to plant a little heavier than normal because  some plants will be yanked out and destroyed during the process. In the past, I  have been hesitant to tine weed my sunflowers fearing that I was doing more harm  than good, but experience has taught me that it’s better to brutalize the little  plants than it is to let the in-row weeds get a foothold. The process is much  the same as it would be in corn or soybeans. Pass the weeder as many times as  you feel is necessary until the plants get six inches or taller. Timely and  effective early-season weed control makes all the difference later in the season  by reducing in-row weeds early in the game.


Growth Stages of the Sunflower


Sunflowers have a vegetative and a reproductive stage just like any field  crop. The vegetative stage begins right at emergence and continues for six to  eight weeks when the terminal bud first appears at the top of the stem.  Sunflowers look rather inconsequential right after emergence: Two tiny leaves  make their appearance right there at soil level, and from afar it’s difficult to  tell the difference between a field of soybeans and one of sunflowers at this  very early stage of vegetative growth. Once the roots get a foothold and the  leaves begin to widen and elongate, however, it’s much easier to identify the  crop as a field of sunflowers. Plants gain stature rapidly through the month of  June and into early July, and you might get through your sunflowers with a  row-crop cultivator a couple of times before they get too tall for the process.  By this time, the leaves have formed a protective canopy over the row that  shades out the weeds below. If you can do a reasonably good job of keeping the  weeds at bay up to now, there won’t be much competition to worry about after  this point. Sunflowers are uniquely characteristic in the coloring and texture  of their foliage during this vegetative period. The leaves are a bit furry to  the touch and light “lima bean” green in color. Most hybrid sunflowers don’t  grow much taller than six or seven feet. Longer-season varieties can have as  many as twelve points of leaf attachment and will have a vegetative period that  might be one to two weeks longer in duration than a shorter-season variety.  Sunflowers are simply amazing in their ability to transform themselves from two  tiny leaves hugging the earth to a veritable jungle of large green leaves on  sturdy stalks in two short months.

Sometime in early to mid-July, the terminal bud will appear at the top of the  stem instead of the next leaf cluster. The reproductive phase has now begun. The  terminal bud elongates an inch or so above the nearest leaf and gives us the  first hints that it is on its way to becoming a large beautiful flower. After  the passage of a few more days, the inflorescence begins to open; the first ray  flowers around the outer edge will now be visible. Flowering now begins in  earnest in the disc or center of the head. Meanwhile, the sunflower head is  getting larger by the day. Now is when you find out how adequate your fertility  levels are for growing a crop of sunflowers. If you’re a little short on  nitrogen being released from the soil’s humus reserves, it will definitely be  reflected in the final size of the seed head. Smaller sunflower heads mean  lighter yields.

Sunflower heads are actually composed of two different types of flowers. The  yellow petals around the outer circumference are called the ray flowers, and the  face of the head is made up of many individual disc flowers that each become a  future seed. These tiny disc flowers are self-compatible for pollination and do  not need the help of pollinating insects. There is a common myth that sunflowers  are heliotropic — which means that the flowering heads of the plants will follow  the sun throughout the day as it makes its way from the eastern horizon to the  west. This may be true when the plants are quite young and still in the  vegetative stage of growth, but it has been my personal experience that  sunflower heads usually point to the east. I have had several sunflower fields  that were situated on the east side of a north–south road. People passing by  were quite disappointed because the sunflowers were all pointed in the direction  opposite the highway. The peak period of brilliant sunflower inflorescence is  all too short, so be sure to enjoy the sight of your sunflower field when it  happens because the plants need to continue ripening to make seed. Get the  camera or paintbrushes and easel out when the field is at its most beautiful  state, as colors will begin to fade and petals drop off in a week to ten  days.




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