How to harvest your sunflowers

When a sunflower bows its head to the ground, it is ready to harvest. The yellow petals around the edge of the sunflower will begin to wilt as well. This seems to be nature’s way of making any rain run right off the flower head (to stop the seeds from rotting) and also acts as a method of protecting the seeds from being eaten by birds (not that this stops them!)

We like to leave some seed for the birds to eat and then save the rest so that we can plant them again later in the year.

Once a sunflower has turned its face to the ground, you can dust off the florets off the face of the flower before you cut the sunflower head off the stalk.

Our Epuni farmers have been harvesting lots of seed heads recently. They cleanly cut the sunflower head off the stalk using secateurs. If it looks like there might be more flower heads that might still open on the stalk, they cut the flower head off carefully, so that these buds can still open and flower.

Once the flower heads have been cut they need to dry out, so that the seed can be safely stored over Winter. This is an important step so that they don’t rot over the winter period.

These sunflower heads have been drying in the sun for a couple of weeks, and are nearly ready to be stored. They make a lovely crunchy noise when they are handled, which lets us know that there’s not much moisture left in them.

Harvesting sunflowers with Epuni and Koraunui School students

Today we harvested sunflowers in our garden at Epuni School. We had some lovely visitors from Koraunui School (in Stokes Valley) to help us and they harvested the ultimate Valentine’s Day sunflower – a beautiful flower full of pink seeds! Check out the photos below to see how we spent the morning in the garden.

These sunflowers round the edge of the garden have almost finished flowering and are nearly ready to harvest.

Seeds peeping through:

Julia dusts off some of the florets from the face of a sunflower, to show the seeds hiding underneath. Julia taught the students that “when a sunflower bows its head to the ground, it is ready to harvest. We leave some seed for the birds to eat and then save the rest so that we can plant them again later this year.”

Students looking at the fractal pattern in a seed head:

Dusting off the florets to reveal the glossy black seeds underneath.

Beautiful farmers with their sunflower fractal.

Our Epuni farmers harvested some sunflower heads too. Sunshiney!

This is a super special sunflower… grown in the middle of the garden. Take a close look at the colour of the seeds…

.. it’s a magical pink sunflower, harvested on Valentine’s Day xxx

Proud farmers showing their freshly-harvested seed head.

Check out the range of colours of sunflower seed – we harvested pink, white and black seeds today!

After the students had harvested the seeds from the garden, they joined Julia outside the Sunshine House (the gorgeous painted tent you can see in the background) and learned about all the different types of vegetable seeds in the garden.

How are your sunflowers growing?

Tena koutou everyone! I can’t quite believe it’s nearly February already – January has just flown by. The Project Sunshine sunflowers in my garden are blooming beautifully so I thought I’d share a few photos with you. We’d like to start collecting photos of other Project Sunshine sunflowers growing in people’s gardens, so please email them to us at projectsunshineaotearoa@gmail.com or share a photo or two via FB and we’ll add them to our album.

These Giant Russians are growing out the front of my house. They didn’t grow very tall as the soil quality here isn’t great, but each plant has about 5 flower heads, which makes for an awesome display:

A Monarch butterfly feeding on a Giant Russian sunflower:

The Giant Russians in my garden out the back of the house grew much better, as they were planted in good soil with lots of compost, and are now over 10 feet tall! They have huge flower heads that the bumblebees love:

Another Monarch butterfly visitor:

As well as the Giant Russians, these ‘Evening Sun’ varieties popped up (in the foreground) – from the Project Sunshine ‘red’ blend I think. They’re a stunning variety as each plant is over 7 feet tall and has more than 10 flowerheads!

Here’s a bumblebee visiting a couple of ‘Evening Sun’ sunflowers. I love how the sunflowers have slightly different petal colours:

These red sunflowers are absolutely stunning too – I think these are the ‘Moulin Rouge’ variety. Like the ‘Evening Sun’ plants, these sunflowers are also about 7 feet tall and have 8-10 flower heads on each stalk:

A beautiful dark, velvety-red sunflower.

Sunflowers at Epuni School

A couple of weeks ago CatherineĀ popped in to see how the sunflowers are growing in The Common Unity Project Aotearoa garden at Epuni School. Leila was working hard in the garden in very blustery weather. Despite all the Wellington wind this summer, the sunflowers still look amazing and there are many more buds to open. We put these photos up on Facebook, but thought we’d also share them here.

Beautiful flowers edging the garden:

Some of the Giant Russians in flower:

This is the centre of the mandala garden, with the bunting flapping in the wind:

Check out the size of this flower head – those are 7-year-old Olly’s hands holding it!

Some beautiful ‘Evening Sun’ flowering on the left. They have many flower heads per stem:

An Evening Sun flower in full bloom:

There are sunflowers dotted throughout the garden:

Can you spot our friend the bumble bee?

Christmas Feast 2013: shiny on the inside!

This week we danced to the sweet tunes of MC Babysteppers, we dipped candles, we ate sweet food cooked by Rachel Priestley, and we face-painted and ate ice cream from CommonSense Organics. We celebrated our Christmas party in style with our hard-working little farmers at Epuni School!

Julia has written a ‘thank you’ list over on our Facebook page here, where you can also see more pictures from the day’s events.

Here are a few other photos from our AWESOME Christmas party:

Rachel Priestley from Prodigal Daughter prepared 25kg of potatoes, 10kg of pork, 16 chickens and fed everyone an incredible meal.

Jacqui and Sue, the green forest angels from CommonSense Organics in Lower Hutt, donated ice cream for each of the children. I’ve never seen ice cream disappear so quickly before!

Sue from SuperVery generously gave us all of these beautiful Winnie-the-Pooh badges that she offered as a koha in return for sunflower seeds. We handed them out to all of the Epuni School children as an early Christmas gift:

Our farmers had sunflowers and other beautiful motifs painted on their faces:

And they dipped candles and made stunning colourful Christmas gifts, which they could take home.

Our feast featured in the DomPost the next day too. Thanks again to everyone who helped make this day super special!

Wishing everyone a very sunshiney Christmas season – we’ll be back in the New Year with more sunflower updates, and hopefully lots more photos that show how everyone’s sunflowers are growing.