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Dead Sunflowers - How to Harvest the Seeds
How to deal with a heavy, dying sunflower
Growing Sunflowers through to the Seed Stage
Sunflowers get so heavy toward the end of their life cycle, and some people don't know what to do exactly to deal with them. This hub is to share my experiences with growing then harvesting seeds from sunflowers and what the different options are for using them.
After thoroughly enjoying the show that a sunflower garden puts on for all to see, the fun still isn't over even when the flower dies. Actually, in these latest years I am doing good if the little birds in our area have left much of the flower at all, they are so eager to get to the seeds! This is not true just of sunflowers either. Birds like all kinds of flower seeds, and when my garden is feeding creatures like birds and butterflies, then I am a happy gardener!
It seems the birds know what flowers are even in their early stages of producing seeds in their seed heads. I like to give the flowers a chance to fully bloom at least before they start getting pecked at.
Lets jump forward to the end of summer or fall even, depending on when your sunflower bloomed. The petals are likely falling off, dying and shrivelling. You will notice the seed head seem to get heavier and heavier and be hanging down, or about to pull the whole stalk down. The plant looks very dead or almost, but it is just focusing all its energy on the seed production.
The seeds get harder and drier over time, and this is when you have some options to consider.
1. You can leave the whole thing alone, and let nature take its course. The birds will love you for this and if you have squirrels in the area, they will come around as well!
2. You can stake the sunflower stalk if you have not already, to let it keep on drying naturally outdoors. This way you are letting nature take its course but also allowing for the seeds to dry better than if the whole plant fell over face down in the dirt or grass, etc.
3. You can cut off the seed head with some of the stem attached. Find a large brown paper bag, and you are going to let it dry in there, or there is an even better choice. While holding the flower head upside down in the bag, gather the bag around the stem at the top of the bag, and using a rubber band or string, kind of secure the bag around the stem. I use a large rubber band, and use that to hang from some wooden pegs on a cute shelf in the room off the kitchen.
*Do not use a plastic bag for this process. The paper bag allows for the flower to breathe and not mold with any moisture. There is more moisture than you would think, and oils in the seeds.
Step 3 allows for the plant to keep following its natural process, and catches any falling seeds. Checking this every so often allows it to get more air and allows to see the progress.
You can use the seeds for a variety of different things.
1. Use them for a personal snack! Very healthy and you harvested food from your own garden, something more and more people want to do.
2. You can use them for your garden the next year! Plant even more beautiful sunflowers the next season and share with family and friends.
3. Use these as personal bird feed in the winter months when the birds can really benefit from it.
4. Use them for a combination of the above ideas if you have lots of seeds! Everyone wins!
I usually save them for the next year to grow more sunflowers and share some with the birds. The sunflower is a lovely, life giving plant that keeps on sharing its wealth long after it is seemingly dead. I just love sunflowers, and I hope that my experiences might be of help to you.
If you have never grown sunflowers, you need to know that they are surprisingly easy to grow, in my experience! You get a lot of return for your efforts, they are just such a joy. The only thing that might be something to consider is that they may need to be staked. That way they won't blow down in a storm or high winds. They can get top heavy especially towards the end. Once you grow them once, you can then have a steady supply for future years of more and more flowers.