Summer Crops: How to Grow Sunflowers

Summer and sunflowers are a natural pairing. A row of sunflowers marking the end of a summer vegetable garden is a traditional appearance that has the additional benefit of attracting butterflies and birds. Sunflowers are a wonderful ornamental addition to your garden. However, if you are going to grow, why don’t you grow ones that provide you a snack too?

Sunflowers are offered in sizes ranging from 2-foot dwarfs to 16-foot giants and in colors from white to deep burgundy. If you’d like a crop of seeds, then search for the traditional taller varieties that are designated manufacturers of edible seeds. Some favorites are listed below, but assess seed catalog listings and growers for other varieties.

Noel Cross+Architects

Noelle Johnson Landscape Consulting

When to plant: In spring once the soil has attained 55 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit (13 to 16 degrees Celsius)
Light requirement: Total sun
Water requirement: Routine to ample
Days to maturity: 68 to 90

Favorites: Giganteus, Kong, Mammoth Grey Stripe, Mammoth Russian, Mongolian Gian, Rostov OG, Russia Giant, Sunseed, Sunspot, Sunzilla, Titan

Planting and maintenance: select a spot that gets full sun for at least six hours every day, rather more, and that is not overly windy. Before placing, operate in a full fertilizer about two inches to the side of the mounting bracket and about 2 inches deep.

Plant seeds 1/2 inch deep and 6 to 12 inches apart, in rows 2-3 feet apart. Lean to 1 to 1 1/2 feet apart after the seedlings have attained about 6 inches. It’s normally much better to begin sunflowers from seeds, as transplanting can be tricky due to brittle taproots, but if you purchase seedlings, place them to 1 1/2 feet aside.

Sarah Greenman

Girasole Sonoma

Water the plants regularly and nicely during the growing season but don’t leave the soil soaking wet.

If your land is poor, you can fertilize lightly during the growing season, but you will have to be careful to prevent fertilizer burn.

Keep fertilizer away from the stalks; feeding with a diluted liquid fertilizer at a watering basin several inches away from your plants is your best option.

You may have to stake the tallest plants. For a fun look, develop the sunflowers among pole beans; they can support each other.

Watch for insects that are common, such as aphids, beetles and mites, and for mould, but general you shouldn’t encounter too many issues. Birds are your biggest adversaries, but also your biggest delights. If you would like to keep the seeds for yourself, cover the flower heads with a light fabric (cheesecloth, onion bag, mesh, mild landscape fabric or burlap) or even paper once the seeds look. The drawback is that you’ll no longer possess the bright flowers to look at.

On the flip side, consider sunflowers free food for birds you may want on your garden anyway. In reality, the sunflower shown here was not planted by the gardener. It most likely came from a seed carried by jays visiting the garden’s stage feeder.

Waterwise Landscapes Incorporated

Harvest: When the seeds are fairly hard and the backs of the flower heads have become brown, cut the stalks 1 to 2 feet below the flower head. Hang the flowers upside down to dry in a warm spot with great ventilation and out of direct sunlight. When the seeds are completely dry, then rub them to remove them in the flower head and keep them in a cool, dry place.

Benjamin Vogt / Monarch Gardens

Sunflower seeds can be eaten raw, but to nourish them, soak them in plain or salted water. Rinse and dry the seeds, then spread them out on a baking sheet and roast at a 300-degree oven for 30 to 40 minutes. (You can also roast in a lower temperature for a longer period.) Remove them from the oven and add salt or other seasonings to suit your own taste.

Tell us : What do you love to grow in summer?

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