Growing Sunflower Plants

Learn about growing your own sunflower plants, how to harvest them and how to make a tasty, salty treat for your friends and family.

If you want to grow sunflowers, pick a nutritious, rich soil, in full sun and sheltered from the wind. Try growing a large variety of sunflowers to see which kind grows best in your area. Sunflower seeds should be available in any garden supplier and maybe the store will have some advice about which kind is best for your geographical area. If you want your sunflowers to become very tall or have large flowers, make the soil even more nutritious with manure, peat moss and compost, mixing them in well with the soil. The soil should also be moist and have good drainage so the growth of the sunflowers won't be stunted.

When you plant the seeds, plant then about 40cm apart, about 1 cm deep after every danger of frost has passed. Plant about three seed at every spot, and when the seedlings show up, weed out all but the strongest one to ensure a good sunflower crop. The seeds should be planted after all chances of frost have passed, and water them regularly to give them a good start. Once the second set of leaves come out, give the plant some plant-prod starter fertilizer of about 10-50-10 to aid root development. One the plants look about 20-30 cm tall, switch to plant-prod all purpose fertilizer about 20-20-20 and feed the sunflower every 10-14 days throughout the growing season.

If your plants are growing very tall it would help to stake the plant and tie it up every 30 cm with thick string to ensure the stalk isn't cut accidentally. This way the wind won't blow over your sunflowers and the stalk can't snap off. When the first sunflower heads appear, don't over-water or the flower heads might deform, and you want the best possible crop. The seeds will be ripe when they are a nice black color, the shells are hard and the seed is well formed and crispy. Take down the flowers and let them dry in the oven at a very low temperature (about 100 degrees Fahrenheit), and then take the seeds out of the flower easily.

Once you have harvested and dried the sunflower seeds you can make a salty treat with them for your family to enjoy. Rinse the seeds and put 3 tablespoons of salt in 5 liters of hot water. Place the seeds (about 10 cups of sunflower seeds) into the water and leave them to soak over night, then drain the water and place the seeds on some paper towels and carefully pat them down to remove excess water. Then spread the seeds evenly on baking sheets and roast them in the oven for 40 minutes, at 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Then allow them to cool and store them in airtight containers. If you want to enhance the flavor even more, you can toss the seeds with some butter or seasoning while they are still hot, and make them even more tasty.

Enjoy your sunflowers and the salty treat after the harvest! This is a great summer project for your kids, and they can even give the seeds to their friends or relatives as a beautiful, thoughtful, homemade gift.

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