Sunflowers provide bright flowers throughout summer and an edible food crop in early fall. Whether you require seed for your own use or to feed the birds, growing your own sunflowers allows you to produce seed for a fraction of the cost of purchased seed. An annual flower, sunflowers reach maturity and produce seed in as little as three months after planting. There are both 3-foot-tall dwarf varieties and giant types that grow up to 7 feet tall, so there is likely a sunflower that fits into your garden design.
Moisten a paper towel then fold it in half and set it on a plate. Sprinkle sunflowers seeds on the towel, spacing them ½ inch apart. Cover the seeds with a second dampened and folded paper towel and set it in a warm room to germinate. Mist the towel with water as needed to keep it moist.
Prepare the garden bed after all spring frost danger has passed. Spread a 2-inch layer of compost over a well-drained, full-sun garden bed. Work the compost into the top 8 inches of soil with a hoe or power tiller.
Check the seeds for sprouts after seven days. Remove the seeds with green sprouts and sow these ¼ inch deep. Space the seeds 1 foot apart for dwarf varieties and up to 3 feet apart for giant sunflowers.
Water the sunflower bed once every five to seven days, moistening the top 6 inches of soil at each irrigation. Water more often if the top 1 inch of soil begins drying quickly during hot, dry weather.
Cultivate the soil between plants every three to five days, removing any weeds. Break up the soil surface with a hoe so weeds do not root and compete with the sunflowers for nutrients.
Place a mesh or cheesecloth sack over the flower head once the petals begin to wilt. Secure the sack opening closed around the stem by tying it loosely with a length of twine. The sack allows the seeds to finish maturing while preventing birds and pests from accessing them.
Cut off the flower head once the back of the flower turns from green to a dried yellow or brown. Leave 6 to 12 inches of the stem attached and do not remove the sack.
Place the sunflower heads in a warm, well-ventilated area and leave them to finish drying for one week. Hang them up if necessary so mice and pests cannot reach the seeds.
Remove the sack from the flower head. Grasp the sunflower by the stem and hold it over a large bowl. Rub your hand over the face of the flower, dislodging the seeds so they fall into the bowl.
About this Author
Jenny Harrington has been a freelance writer since 2006. Her published articles have appeared in various print and online publications, including the "Dollar Stretcher." Previously, she owned her own business, selling handmade items online, wholesale and at crafts fairs. Harrington's specialties include small business information, crafting, decorating and gardening.