Sunflowers have been a favourite for children, adults and seniors to grow for many years due to how easy it is to grow them - sunflowers can thrive almost anywhere where there is sufficient sun and reasonable soil. If you would like to harvest the seed heads yourself, it is helpful to learn the art of drying sunflowers. Drying sunflowers will make the sunflower seeds hard and easy to remove. Trying to remove sunflower seeds without drying the sunflower head is quite difficult, and there is no benefit to drying the seeds outside of the flower anyway. Below is outlined two different ways to get to those tasty sunflower seeds!
Harvesting Sunflowers – The Signs
It is quite easy to tell when it is time to harvest your sunflowers. The head will have become brown and dry, almost wilted, and most of the yellow leaves have fallen off. It might be possible to mistake the sunflower as old and dead at this time but the seeds in the middle of the head of the sunflower will both be fat and juicy, with a black and white striped outer coating, which should look full and be hard to the touch.
Drying Sunflowers – On the Stem
You can easily let nature take its course when it comes to drying sunflowers, and allow the drying process to occur naturally on the stem. If you are drying sunflowers this way you should keep an eye out for when the backside of the sunflower's head turns yellow and the petals have fallen off. Once this has happened you need to act fast if you do not wish to lose all of your sunflower seeds to the ground! Use a brown paper bag to cover the head and this will also protect it from birds, squirrels and other critters that are interested in the sunflower seeds too. The paper bag helps the sunflower head still "breathe" and prevents moisture from accumulating in the bag and turning the seeds moldy. (If it rains, you may need to replace the bag with another in case the bag gets soggy or tears.) Dry your sunflowers like this until their heads turn brown on the backside - then it is time for harvesting. Simply collect the head by cutting the sunflower off one foot down on the stem, making sure you don't lose the paper bag off the top in the process!
Drying Sunflowers – Early Harvesting
If you do not want to struggle against birds, squirrels and other critters competing to get a taste of your sunflower seeds before you do, there is another way to dry your sunflowers. When you see the signs of the yellowing of the backside of the sunflower head you simply harvest them right at that point. Cut the heads down leaving about one foot of stem below the head. You can then dry your sunflowers where ever you want to, as long as it is warm and dry with good ventilation to prevent molding. A small shed might be perfect, or even in your house. You may still want to cover the seed heads with paper bags, especially if drying in an outdoor shed! But primarily, as long the sunflowers are kept warm, dry and sheltered, you'll be able to successfully harvest the seeds. Simply run your hand over the sunflower head and the seeds will pop right out.