Sunflowers are a favorite flower of the summer garden. Sunflower seeds are a snack food that you can easily make by selecting and growing sunflowers that produce large seeds that are conducive to roasting. Although many sunflower hybrids have exotic colors and grow in different sizes, selecting a classic sunflower that grows to 6- to 12-feet tall with a large flower can often be best for growing sunflowers for seeds. Initially, you can buy seeds from a garden supply. However, by retaining seeds after your first season, you can plant the previous year's seeds each season.
Select a location for your sunflower beds. Sunflowers need rich soil that drains well. They also need six to eight hours of sun per day.
Prepare your soil by digging down 18 to 24 inches and turning the soil.
Add 2 inches of compost to your turned soil. Sunflowers are heavy feeders and adding compost every year at planting will help provide your flowers the nutrients they need.
Use your hoe and rake to break up soil clumps so they are not larger than a pea. As you break up the soil, work in the compost.
Rake your soil smooth once the clumps are broken up.
Plant your sunflower seeds twice as deep as they are long when nighttime temperatures are expected to be above 50 degrees F. For example, if your seeds are 1/4-inch long, plant them 1/2-inch deep. Plant five or six seeds 6 to 8 inches apart and thin the weaker plants until your clump has the strongest plant. In most areas, plant sunflowers between late May and early June.
Water your sunflower patch. Keep the soil moist until the seeds germinate.
Once the sunflowers are several inches tall, add an inch or two of mulch to help keep moisture in the ground and to help control weeds.
Cut the sunflowers with scissors or a knife when the seed head begins to turn brown.
Hang the sunflowers upside down to dry. When the flowers are dry, rub the seed heads to release the seeds.
Soak the dry seeds overnight in salt water and roast them in a single layer on a cookie sheet in a 200 degree F oven for three hours, stirring the seeds occasionally.