I enjoy growing sunflowers for their visual appeal in the summer garden. They are useful as well, but choose the variety carefully – some are specific to produce plump, edible seeds, others have been bred for oil, others for the birds! Sunflowers are good to intercrop, eg. with climbing or runner beans as a structural support and pumpkins or melons or lettuces underneath for some shading in the peak of summer.
Autumn – Harvest if the birds haven’t beaten you. Pull out the whole plant and allow to dry upside down with the head in a paper bag, or cut off the head and do the same thing, in a cool, dry, airy spot.
Winter – Nothing doing.
Spring – Sow as seed or seedling in late spring when all frosts have passed. Sunflowers need 15-20 degrees soil temperature to germinate. Plant 10-15cm apart and 40-60cm between rows. Weed and water, mulch
Summer – Continue weeding and watering. Hill up soil at the base of the plant to stabilise, some support may be needed for lanky, tall growing plants, similar to broad beans.
Generally – Not much to growing, just enjoy the ornamental value as well.
Eating – The seeds are within the black seed coat so you will need to peel them. Make sure the flower heads are totally dry before extracting the seeds. It’s time consuming but worth it.