How to Grow and Use Sunflowers? Sunflowers come in a wide range of sizes. Some varieties grow up to 15 feet tall and have flower heads up to 1 foot in diameter. Dwarf types, however, are only one or two feet tall. There are also early, medium-high sunflowers that are 5 to 8 feet tall and have heads that are 8 to 10 inches in diameter. Some varieties produce a single large flower; others form several heads.
And let’s not forget their seeds. Sunflower seeds can improve everything from baked goods and cereals to salads and pesto, and they even feed animals and birds. Sunflower oil, known for its skin benefits, is even found in many beauty products and soaps. And when it comes to the garden, you can consider sunflowers for aesthetic reasons, but they can also serve as windscreens, privacy screens, or living supports for runner beans.
Here are our best tips for growing your healthiest sunflowers so far.
Make sure you plant them in full sun.
If possible, choose a location in full sun on the north side of the garden so that the tall plants do not shade your other vegetables after growing. Sunflowers are not picky in the soil, so you don’t have to worry too much about soil types.
Sunflower seedlings are cold-resistant, so short-term growers may want to have a head starta few weeks before the last frost. However, in most areas it is best to wait until the ground is warmer – around the last frost date.
If you sow seeds directly, you can sow most sunflower seeds 1 inch deep and 6 inches apart. You can move large varieties at a distance of 1.5 feet and dwarf or medium-sized varieties at a distance of 1 foot. Water well after planting.
Add a layer of mulch.
Apply a 3 to 4 inch layer of mulch to save moisture and keep weeds out. Sunflowers are drought-resistant, but they grow better if you water them regularly from the time the flowers develop until they are ripe.
Sunflowers are remarkably trouble free, but there are some issues to watch out for. You should turn your crop if Verticillium – a soil fungus that produces dead areas along the leaf veins – becomes a problem.
To protect seeds from birds, you can use flowers with mesh bags, cheese cloth,or perforated plastic bags. An early autumn can affect pollination and cause the plant to empty seeds. However, you can avoid this problem by planting earlier the following year.
Harvest sunflowers at the right time.
as soon as they start to brown or the back of the seed heads turns yellow. You can see that the heads usually start to hang when they are ready to be harvested.
Cut your sunflowers together with a few inches of stem. You can give it away or use it to brighten up your kitchen table or office.
To dry them out for animal feed, hang them upside down in a dry, well-ventilated place – like a garage or an attic – until they’re completely dry. You can then store them in plastic bags or jars for birds and animal feed.
Try toasting your seeds.
To cook your sunflower seeds, soak them in water overnight (or strong saltwater if a salty taste is desired), drain and spread on a flat baking sheet. Roast at 200 degrees Fahrenheit for 3 hours or until crispy.