Sunflowers accent any summer lawn or garden, and provide a monument to the warmth and long days of summer. Sunflowers serve as more than decoration, however. Sunflower seeds are loaded with vitamins and minerals and make a nutritious snack. Save sunflower seeds to feed your feathered friends throughout the winter, or to plant next summer's sunflower crop. Save the seeds from a sunflower in just a few steps.
Protect maturing seeds from birds by placing a piece of nylon or cheesecloth over the flower heads. Nylon that is cut from a pair of pantyhose works great, as it stretches and stays on the sunflower head.
Watch for the back of the sunflower heads to turn from green to yellow. When you see the color change, the sunflower seeds are ready to be harvested.
Cut the sunflower heads off, leaving 1 foot of stem attached. The extra stalk makes it easier to hang them to dry.
Tie string around the end of the stalk, and hang the sunflower head upside down in an place that has good air circulation. The nylon can stay on the sunflower head, as it continues to protect the plant from pests and catches any seeds that may fall early. Allow the heads to dry for 7 to 10 days.
Set a large tray on a table and take down the sunflower heads. Remove the nylon or cheesecloth while the head is over the table to catch any loose seeds. To pick the seeds off the head, run your fingers over the seeds. They should be loose enough to drop onto the tray. If they do not fall easily, they may need to hang for several more days.
Sort through your sunflower seeds and remove any that are moist or damaged.
Save the seeds for next year's crop by putting them into paper envelopes, and storing the envelopes in air-tight plastic containers or glass jars. To use the seeds for bird seed, or to preserve for roasting, store them in a sealed, air-tight container. If the seeds will be stored in a garage or basement where rodents and squirrels may find them, place them in a glass or tin container as rodents will chew through plastic.