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Beautiful AND delicious...
Sunflowers come in different sizes. They can grow to be 15-feet tall (higher than the ceilings in most homes)
with one big flower as big as a hubcap...or they can be smaller with many blooms like the dwarf varieties that grow only as high as the seat of your chair.
If you are looking for a tasty and healthy snack, a handful of sunflower seeds will take care of your hunger supply your body with significant amounts of vitamin E and are a good source of vitamin B1, magnesium and selenium.
There are lots of ways to enjoy sunflowers:
- Grow them along a fence to attract birds and provide a little shade.
- Bring ht cut stems inside to cheer up your kitchen.
- Add sunflower seeds to your favorite tuna, chicken or turkey salad recipe.
- Garnish mixed green salads with sunflower seeds.
- Adding sunflower seeds to scrambled eggs will give them a unique taste and texture.
- Use fine ground sunflower seeds to dust your meats with in place of flour.
- Sprinkle sunflower seeds onto hot and cold cereal
The Basics of Growing Sunflowers
As soon as the soil is warm, sunflower seeds can be sown directly into the ground.
When to plant also depends upon when you want the flowers to bloom. The Russian Mammoth is ready for harvest in 100 days...that is three months...so a late spring planting will give you a late summer flower.
Sunflower plants grow well in most soils. Sunflowers are not picky about the conditions of the soil, but like any other plant they will do better in better soil.
They need to grow their roots deep and wide, to enable them to withstand strong winds. If you have a choice, sandy soil is not recommended because it is so loose and the sunflowers can be too easily uprooted.
Rich soil is especially important if you want to grow the big guys. They need a lot of nutrients to support their size.
Why do you think they call then "SUN"flowers?
They need FULL SUN and lots of it!
Sunflowers need full sun... at least 6-8 hours of direct sunlight per day...
the more the better if you are trying to grow the huge varieties.
Plant seedling or seeds in just about any sunny location in your garden. You can plant single stems by themselves or in rows. You can even plant them in groups or even in patterns.
If possible, choose a site in full sun on the north side of the garden so the tall plants won't shade your other vegetables. Sow seeds 1" deep and 6" apart. Thin large types to 1 1/2-feet apart and dwarf or medium-sized cultivars to 1-foot apart.
If you plant the tallest varieties in a circle just a foot so so apart, the stems will form the falls of an open-air Sunflower House.
Sunflowers are a pretty hearty crop. They need normal amounts of water.
Sunflowers should be watered frequently enough that the soil does not dry out too much – although they can tolerate short dry spells. Deep roots help sunflowers to withstand most droughts.
Over-watering for extended periods is a definite no-no and will cause root rot.
Your sunflower seeds will be ready to harvest when the head turns down towards the ground. Harvest the seeds after the flower begins to die back and most if not all, of the petals have fallen off. Check one of the seeds to make sure the kernel inside is plump and fills the whole shell. Cut the flower along with 2' of stem and hang the head upside down in a dry, well-ventilated place.
If birds are a problem, cut the heads off when the backs of the flower starts to yellow and set it aside to dry.
Sunflowers are remarkably trouble-free.
Birds love sunflower seeds. Sunflowers will attract many local birds to your garden.
If you do not want to eat your seeds, you can leave the sunflower head on the stem or on the porch to feed the birds over the winter. But if you want your seeds, you may have to protect the flower with mesh bags, cheesecloth, old pantyhose, or perforated plastic bags when it is close to harvest time.
Sunflower seed shells have a poison that can kill grass so it is best to collect the seeds off the lawn before any damage is done.
A Little Sunflower History....
American Indian tribes throughout North America were growing sunflowers in what is now Arizona and New Mexico about 5000 years ago. Some archaeologists think that sunflowers were grown as a crop even before corn.
Sunflower was used in many ways by the different American Indian tribes. Seed was ground or pounded into flour for cakes, mush or bread. Some tribes mixed the meal with other vegetables such as beans, squash, and corn. The seed was also cracked and eaten for a snack. There are references of squeezing the oil from the seed and using the oil in making bread.
When the Spanish explorers came to the New World in the early 1500's, they took sunflower seeds home with them but for a long time the Europeans only used sunflowers for medicine or as decoration for their homes.
By about 1769, the sunflower traveled eat to Russia where the emperor, Peter the Great, had his subjects produce oil from the seeds on a large scale.
By 1880, Russian sunflower seed found its way into the US and seed companies were advertising the 'Mammoth Russian' sunflower seed in their catalogues. Nearly 100 years later, this is the same seed that Kids Growing Strong packages and gives out to kids and their families.
For more information, try these links....
How are your seeds doing?
Tyler Carver planted his packet of seeds from Kids Growing Strong back in Iowa last spring.
While some of the seeds washed away in the heavy rains earlier that year, the Mammoth Sunflower surived and grew to almost 10 feet tall.