Harvesting sunflower seeds
Home & Garden - posted Fri., Sep. 14, 2012
It is easy to tell when it is time to harvest your sunflowers for the seeds. The head will have become brown and dry, almost wilted, and most of the yellow leaves have fallen off. It might be possible to mistake the sunflower as old and dead at this time, but the seeds in the middle of the head of the sunflower will be fat and juicy, with a black and white striped outer coating, which should look full and be hard to the touch.
Drying on the stem
You can easily let nature take its course when it comes to drying sunflowers, and allow the drying process to occur naturally on the stem. If you are drying sunflowers this way, keep an eye out for when the backside of the sunflower’s head turns yellow and the petals have fallen off. Once this has happened, you need to act fast if you do not wish to lose all of your sunflower seeds to the ground! Use a brown paper bag to cover the head and this will also protect it from birds, squirrels and other critters that are interested in the sunflower seeds. The paper bag helps the sunflower head still “breathe” and prevents moisture from accumulating in the bag and turning the seeds moldy. Dry your sunflowers like this until their heads turn brown on the backside – then it is time for harvesting.
If you do not want to struggle against birds, squirrels and other critters competing to get a taste of your sunflower seeds before you do, there is another way to dry your sunflowers. When you see the signs of the yellowing of the backside of the sunflower head, you simply harvest them right at that point. Cut the heads down, leaving about one foot of stem below the head. You can then dry your sunflowers wherever you want to, as long as it is warm and dry with good ventilation to prevent molding.