I had a hunch that if I grew sunflowers in a fenced enclosure inside the chicken run they’d get big, since that’s the most fertile part of my backyard. Tonight I measured the tallest at 10 feet, 8 inches (3.25 meters). It’s stout, too, I feel like I could almost climb it. Impressive!
Yeah, but how impressive? And, even more interesting to me, how can we find data to help answer the question? Perhaps with a sequence of searches like so:
These are parallel searches of Google and Bing for “[1..27]-foot sunflower”. Here are the resulting counts, with Bing scaled up by a factor of 100 to make the trends comparable:
So, maybe my near-11-footer isn’t so special after all. This method of finding out is interesting, though. It seems incredibly naive. If you try those queries you’ll find all sorts of stuff that isn’t relevant to what I mean by an n-foot sunflower. But if the amount of irrelevance is constant across the range, it factors out, right? And the two independent search engines make this a controlled experiment.
I wonder how well this proxy for sunflower height distribution correlates with the actual distribution. Of course there are a million other questions you could try to answer this way. It’d be easy to make a web app to automate this method. I lazily hope somebody already has, or will, so I don’t have to.
PS: My sunflowers are actually a second crop. The first one had a crazy head start, because we had freaky warm weather in February. But then in early April, when they were already 3 feet high, the chickens broke into the enclosure and demolished them. What lofty heights could my sunflowers have reached this summer? We’ll never know.
PPS: Here’s the data:
1,2,0 2,994,10 3,8,4 4,10,4 5,9,4 6,3270,37 7,74,11 8,135,12 9,176,11 10,1690,39 11,75,9 12,472,37 13,82,12 14,220,8 15,54,9 16,9,4 17,2,1 18,55,4 19,6,2 20,119,8 21,0,0 22,2,0 23,0,0 24,8,3 25,891,2 26,3,2 27,0,0
3 thoughts on “Attack of the giant sunflower”
xkcd discussed this once http://xkcd.com/715/
You are the Alton Brown of home gardening, Jon!
He’s being old-world centric, I thought, how about we do it in metric unit. Either no-one posts about their 130cm sunflower or the units are just too small to get the same kind of effect as you’re seeing here. None of the searches with metric units seemed to pull any results with actual measurements of sunflowers.
So what does this say about the general utility of this method of data gathering?