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.

Harvesting seed

Hello sunshiny friends. A wee update on what we have been up to since our harvest. The children have been tackling the task of stripping the heads of seeds and will soon begin to pack them up to send out. It’s a huge task, and we have produced enough seed to send to every NZ school… should they want it! The little ones have been using the trays of drying seed as a sensory exercise… they feel magic to run your hands through and are great for maths and counting. The big seniors had the wonderful task of ripping out the remains of the field, which was really tough work for our farmers! The result is a mountain of compost ready to feed next season’s efforts. Please get in touch if you would like to pre-order seed. We ask for a small koha to cover postage costs. This project remains a gift from our community to the bees and all other children of NZ.

Harvest time – March 2013

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Hello lovely sunflower friends.

We have had a pretty wonderful growing season with our field that was planted at Epuni School back in October. Our flowers have survived Christmas winds and now a drought. But despite this they have managed to produce some enormous heads. In the last two weeks we started harvesting the flowers and were lucky enough to have our sunflower friends from Pomare School come join us for a harvest celebration last week. Over the winter, our Epuni children will pack up the seeds ready to send out to any school or community group in New Zealand that would like to join with us in raising awareness of bee populations and just for the pure joy of spreading sunshine through our communities. Our sunflower field has brought so much happiness and beauty to our neighbourhood, it has hosted an amazing array of insect life and will support the birds that are struggling through this dry period. Please get in touch with us if you would like seed or further info. I thanks the hard work of our Epuni children to keep their field of flowers alive and flourishing, and much love too to the children of Pomare School, St Michael’s and Taita Central who all came together with us to create this planting.