Sunflowers, Autumn Harvest

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Sunflowers are a lovely addition to any yard or garden. The smaller sunflowers can be grown as a border around a flower garden. Sunflowers can also be grown like a fence of sunflowers near the fence or border of the yard. Sunflowers are big hardy plants that don’t require much maintenance. They don’t usually get diseases. People grow them as flowers and for seeds.

Sunflowers also attract wildlife to your yard. Sunflower seeds are a favorite of cardinals and chickadees. Squirrels will also eat sunflower seeds. Sunflowers are also companion plants to squashes.

Sunflowers are members of the genus Helianthus. This is another way of saying sunflower because helios means the sun and anthos means flower. Sunflowers are called sunflowers because they turn toward the sun. Sunflowers face east in the morning when the sun is in the east and west later in the day. A French word for sunflower is tournesol or “turn with the sun.”

Sunflowers should be planted in fertile soil with good drainage. Sandy soil is too loose to support the large sunflowers. Sunflowers should also be in the sunlight all day. Sunflowers need space to grow so plant them a foot or more apart in rows according to the instructions on the seed packet. Sunflowers are drought resistant but they should be watered at least once a week. Placing a 3 inch to 4 inch mulch around the plants’ stalks will help to preserve the moisture.

When the yellow sunflower petals have turned brown and fallen to the ground it is time to harvest the sunflower seeds. Some signs that the seeds are ready to be harvested are: 

  • The seeds are large, plump and striped
  • The sunflower’s petals are turning brown and falling to the ground
  • The back of the sunflower head is brown and dry

When the seeds are ready to harvest you can harvest and dry them. To dry the seeds outside put paper bags over the flower heads to protect them from birds. To dry them indoors you will need a dry ventilated area to dry the seeds like an attic room. You can dry them while they are still on the flower head.

Cut the flower head off the stalk leaving about a foot of the stalk attached to the flower head. Hang the flower heads by their stalks to dry. You can hang them on a clothesline with clothespins in an attic room to dry or place them on a screen to dry. You can put them on a screen like a window screen and support the screen with chairs or boxes. When the seeds are dry hold the flowers over a bag, basket or bowl and rub your hand over the seeds. You can also rub the flower heads together. The seeds will fall into the container.

You can also dry the flower heads and stalks as dried flowers for bouquets or crafts projects. Cut the stalk to the length you want and hand the flowers by their stalks until they are dry. When they’re dry you can arrange them in bouquets with other flowers.

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