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Sunflowers are easy to grow from seed sown directly in the garden. Although plants likely will grow from seeds sold as snacks or bird food, it is best to buy the seeds sold at garden centers. There are numerous varieties of sunflowers, from short and bushy plants to towering giants that grow to 15'. Purchase those that work best for your landscape.
It should be no surprise that sunflowers love sun. Pick a sunny spot in the garden and work in a generous amount of compost. Sunflowers do best in fertile, well-worked soil. If the soil is very poor, add a light sprinkling of slow-release fertilizer.
Plant sunflower seeds in spring after the danger of frost has passed. Plant seeds 1" deep in groups of three or four spaced 12" to 18" apart. Cover with soil and water well. Cover the seeds with netting to protect them from birds and squirrels.d.jpg
Keep the soil moist until the seeds germinate, typically in a week. When the seedlings reach 5" tall, thin to just one plant every 12" to 18", depending on the variety. Water and feed with liquid fertilizer every week as sunflowers are notoriously heavy feeders. If growing the very tall varieties, it may be necessary to stake the plants.
When the petals on the seed heads dry up and die back, the seeds are ready for harvest. Use pruning shears to cut the head from the stalk, leaving at least 4" of stalk attached. Tie twine to the sunflower stalks and hang them to dry in the sun (Image 1). When the flowers are completely dry (Image 2), pick out the seeds to eat as snacks and to plant the following year.
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