How to Grow Sunflowers

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Add some color to your table by creating a bouquet for the centerpiece.
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Sunflowers are a bee favorite.
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“Grow What You Love” by Emily Murphy, encourages gardeners to exactly that. Choose plants you enjoy using in your everyday life.

Grow What You Love: 12 Food Plant Families To Change Your Life (Firefly Book, 2018) by Emily Murphy, not only teaches readers to grow and harvest gardens but to apply this philosophy to life as well. Murphy helps readers to plan out gardens to best suite their space and needs. She shares tips and techniques for growing a successful garden. The following excerpt is from The Plant Directory, “Edible Flowers and Companion Plants.” 

Sunflower

Helianthus spp.

Sunflowers have a wonderful way of requiring little but giving so much in return. Their sturdy, vertical nature is perfect for the smallest of gardens, allowing them to double as a support for climbing pole beans. They’re a bee favorite and, of course, produce lovely cut flowers as well as seeds for saving and eating.

Plant

SUN. MODERATE TO REGULAR WATER.

Annual. Prefers moderate to rich well-draining soil. Direct-sow seeds one to two weeks after your last spring frost, or start indoors two to four weeks before your last spring frost. If starting indoors, it’s best to grow them in individual paper pots so their roots are disturbed as little as possible when transplanting. Plant seeds 1/4 to 1 inch deep depending on size of seed. Spacing depends on size of plant at maturity.

Sunflowers are easy to grow and happy to volunteer in mild climates. Look for their telltale leaves emerging in spring, and move them around your garden for optimal placement, planting them on the north side of beds so they don’t shade out other sun-loving plants. Group them together for a shock of color, and hope the squirrels and birds don’t get to the seeds before you do!

Pick

Harvest seeds once flower petals start to dry and fall away and seeds look plump and mature. If birds are a problem, or you’re worried too many seeds will fall to the ground before harvesting, try covering flower heads with a paper bag or cheese­cloth, giving seeds more time to mature. When they are ready, cut the stem below the flower and bring it inside. Pry seeds to begin releasing them. Once a few have come free, they’ll all quickly fall away. If you don’t plan to eat all the seeds you’ve grown, leave extras in the garden for birds and other animals.

Fix

Save some seeds for planting next season, and eat the rest raw or roasted. You can also soak the seeds in salt water for added flavor. Combine 1/8 cup salt per quart of water and soak overnight. Once seeds are fully dry, roast them for about 30 minutes at 300°F. Store them in an airtight container in your pantry.

Copyright@ 2018 Firefly Books Ltd.

Text Copyright @ 2018 Emily Murphy

Photographs copyright @ West Cliff Creative

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