As he put it, “The real reason I do this is because of the beauty of God’s creation… I always think of the scripture that says even nature tells us that there is a God. “
Quick to deflect praise from himself, Steele stated, “I planted the seed, but I did not make the seed.”
Steele said his plants reach as high as 1 feet seven inches, a peak height for the plant, which can be as short as five feet or as tall as twelve feet. Steele denied that there was anything special about his soil.
“They like the sun, a little fertilizer, and water during droughts, but other than that are very low maintenance plants,” Steele said.
He noted that storms were the only real danger to his plants that have fragile stalks and are easily blown over by harsh winds.
His Aunt, who grows her own sunflowers in Florida, sparked Steele’s interest to cultivate the flowers at home in Alabama.
Since then, he has learned a lot about sunflowers, including that deer liked them just as much as he did. A small electric wire fixed that problem until the sunflowers were too tall for the deer to reach anymore.
He has also learned that sunflowers may get there name not only from their resemblance to the sun, but from the fact that they lean toward the east in the morning and slowly follow the sun across the sky until they are pointing toward the west in the evening.
Though Steele grows his sunflowers for pure enjoyment, their seeds have many uses for those who are interested in cultivating their own plants. The seeds may be roasted or eaten raw for a healthy snack or a unique salad topping. For those who are allergic to peanuts or just looking for a healthy alternative, they may be ground in a food processor to make “sunflower butter.” Oil may also be extracted from the seeds and used for cooking and baking.
Steele hopes to encourage other people to grow sunflowers of their own so that more people will have the opportunity to enjoy the beauty of them. “There’s just something about the sunflower… I think people used to grow them more than they do now and I just like for people to see them and enjoy them.”