A giant sunflower blooms in summer;by autumn the center head is filled with seed

A giant sunflower blooms in summer;
by autumn the center head is filled with seed


Last year, my sunflowers were gigantic and gorgeous. I removed heads as large as dinner plates for drying so I could plant the seeds again this year. Some of the smaller heads contained seeds that were totally black. I figured the bees had done some magic with cross pollination of other sunflowers from the neighborhood.



I stored the heads in my garden shed over the winter, but never got around to removing the seed for replanting. When I went into the shed to retrieve them for planting last month, I discovered with dismay that something had devoured most of the seeds. A few seeds were left so I optimistically tucked them into the ground. Alas, none germinated.



Determined not to let that ever happen again, I recently bought four packets of open-pollinated, heirloom sunflower seed. After they grow, I’ll harvest and preserve the seed correctly at the end of summer so I’ll have plenty to plant next year. When you use open-pollinated, heirloom seed, next year’s plants will come true to the characteristics of the parent. This is not the case, however, with hybrid seed.


In case you might be interested in harvesting and storing sunflower seeds, too, here are the steps.


1. When the sunflower heads have turned from green to brown, remove the head from the stalk with a knife.


2. Let the head dry for a few weeks to a month in a dry place, safe from marauding squirrels and racoons. You can tie the heads with string and hang them from the ceiling in a drying shed or place them on paper.


3. Shake or gently bang or otherwise extract the seed onto paper from the dried heads.


4. Store the seed in paper envelopes and label them with the date and type of seed.

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