Children love growing sunflowers, adults love growing sunflowers, everybody loves growing sunflowers. So it should come as no surprise that sunflower seeds are sold in almost every garden store and seed catalogue around the world. If you have your own garden, you should definitely look into growing sunflowers on your own. They are a no-fuss, relatively easy to care for plant. Plus, after enjoying the beauty of the sunflower in the summer, you get to eat the seeds once the head has matured. How many flowers do you get to enjoy both for visual effect and to snack on later! On this page, you will learn more about growing sunflowers, what you need to consider and watch out for. Keep on reading, then get planning your summer sunflower garden.
Growing Sunflowers – Germination
First of all, to get good results, you cannot simply toss those sunflower seeds into the ground and hope for the best. If you want to get a head start (for a small planting only) you can apply a little natural selection to see which seeds have the best potential for growth. In late spring, a week or two before you intend to plant the seeds in your garden, place the sunflower seeds between a couple of pieces of damp paper towels to initiate germination. It is very important that your paper towels are not wet but only damp; wet paper towels will reduce your chances for successful germination. Place the damp paper towels and the sunflower seeds on their own for a couple of days and check on their progress from time to time; those seeds that have started to grow are ready to be planted. At this point, the germinated seeds can be planted directly into the ground, or nurtured in pots for a week maximum prior to an outdoor planting. Sunflowers do not benefit from an extended time to get started indoors. Their stems can become weak and the long tap root that the sunflower throws deep into the ground will be stunted. For this reason, you can confidently plant the seeds directly into the ground (when the danger of frost has passed). This is the recommended method of sowing, especially for giant sunflowers, and especially if you are planting a large number of sunflowers. Plant seeds approximately 12 inches (30 cm) apart and if planting in rows, space your rows about 2 or 3 feet apart from each other. Seedlings should appear within 5-10 days.
Growing Sunflowers – Location
It is quite common to see people growing sunflowers next to a house wall or other shaded supported structure, but this not as advantageous as an open area. When growing sunflowers it is important that the planting location receive as much sun as possible, at least 6 to 8 hours a day. In theory this means that a southern house wall (if you live in the northern hemisphere) is quite sufficient, although a more freestanding location is preferable.
Growing Sunflowers – Soil and Water
Each season you grow sunflowers, you will grow taller, stronger flowers if you prepare your soil. Dig compost or manure into the planting bed to a depth of about 2 to 3 feet. Your soil will have to be loose enough for the water to be able to drain but still firm enough so that the sunflower will not tip as it sways in the wind fully grown. Although the sunflower enjoys water, you should not water a sunflower too much, since this will contribute to root rot and may loosen the soil to the extent that the sunflower will fall. When growing sunflowers you do not need to concern yourself with fertilizing since the sunflower is quite capable of taking care of itself. If you wish, you can use a liquid fertilizer (such as Miracle Gro) once every two weeks, taking care to pour the solution around the sunflower, not directly on the stem of the plant. Sunflowers are capable of growing in poor soils, but generally flourish in the soil of the average garden.
Growing Sunflowers – Harvesting
If you plan to enjoy the fruits, or seeds, of your labour growing sunflowers you will need to learn how to harvest them. When the backside of the sunflower heads turn yellow you will need to protect them from birds, squirrels and other animals that enjoy sunflower seeds. The best way is to do that is to cover the head with a normal brown paper bag. Once the back of the sunflowers head has turned brown it means harvest-time has arrived. Cut the head off around a foot down on the stem - once that is done all you have to do is rub the head using your hand and the seeds will fall off. Sunflower seeds are simply one of the greatest things about growing sunflowers and can be used in a wide variety of dishes or eaten as a healthy snack.