One of the pleasures of growing sunflowers is the harvesting of the seeds in the autumn. You won’t be the only one attempting to harvest the seeds though! Sunflower harvesting is a favourite past time of birds and squirrels. To beat the wildlife, it is important to know when to start the harvest.
Heads picked too early may have plenty of seed coats but little inside. Wait until the animals start harvesting and there’ll be nothing left for you!
Harvest sunflowers when their petals become dry and begin to fall. The green base of the head will turn yellow and then eventually brown. Seeds will look plump and the seed coats will be fully black (or black and white stripes depending on the variety). If you find that birds are a problem, you can cover the heads with fine netting or paper bags as soon as the petals begin to wilt.
One method for harvesting sunflower seeds allows the seeds to fully ripen on the stem. When seeds are fully ripened and just beginning to loosen from the head, cut the stem about one 2.5 cm below the head. Rub the seeds from the head with your hand and allow the seeds to dry before storing.
For seeds that will be stored for only a season, place the container in a cool, dark location and use within 3 months.
Sunflower seeds make a great winter feed for the birds or a tasty treat for your family.