Friday, August 25, 2017

Harvesting and Enjoying Sunflower Seeds By Joyce D’Agostino

Photo courtesy Donna Duffy

Sunflowers are one of the most popular and recognized parts of American gardens. In addition to their bright beauty, they attract beneficial insects. Some species produce seeds that are not only a great snack but have good nutritional value.

This time of year, most sunflowers are in bloom and some are already producing their dried discs of seeds. There are several varieties of sunflowers now available to the home gardener. These include pollenless flowers that have been developed for cutting bouquets. This type does not shed the yellow pollen onto furniture or cause issues for those with pollen allergies. There are dwarf varieties, also preferred for flower bouquets, as well as specialty color combinations.

Photo courtesy Donna Duffy

Sunflowers should be planted in the spring so that they can take their time to grow to the proper height and form their disc seed head. If you plan to grow sunflowers mainly for seeds, be sure to carefully read the description and ask questions of the seed company to ensure you are choosing the right kind. Most all sunflowers will form seed heads but some may be smaller.  For example, even wild sunflowers can form seeds heads, but due to their small size they are better for wildlife consumption.

When the ray petals open on a sunflower, the disc head may appear to be green, depending on the species. Usually as the flower matures, the seeds will darken and ripen. One way to know if your sunflower head is ripe is when the large head droops from the weight of the seeds and the foliage on the back of the head turns yellow or a straw color.

Squirrels can be a problem since they are attracted to sunflower seeds so if you may need to either cover the heads with mesh bags or put barriers around the bottom of the plant so they can’t climb up the stems.  Also try not to plant your sunflowers along a fence as this gives squirrels a quick and easy access to nipping off the heads.

If you have sunflowers blooming now or ripening heads, then follow the instructions below so you can have some sun ripened treats. And as you plan for your next garden, consider adding sunflowers and enjoy the many varieties for both cutting and seeds.

Plantalk: Sunflowers