How to grow a sunflower seed

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Sunflower seeds are collected from the sunflower, an annual plant native to North America. By planting sunflower seeds and growing your own sunflowers, you can enjoy the seeds as a healthy snack or extract sunflower oil from them. Sunflower plants are available in many varieties, growing from 6 inches tall to 20 feet high. The most common garden sunflower is the giant sunflower, which is grown solely for seed production. Purchase sunflower seeds from a reputable nursery, retail store or online dealer, and ensure the seeds are a variety that produces edible seeds.

Begin germinating your sunflower seeds indoors, two to four days before the predicted last frost date in your area. Dampen two paper towels with water. Place the sunflower seeds between them. Keep the paper towels damp -- but not wet -- for two to four days.

Prepare the garden for the sunflower seeds while they are germinating indoors. Choose a site that receives eight hours of sunlight per day. Till the garden bed with a rotary tiller to a depth of 24 inches. Remove rocks, weeds and other debris from the planting site.

Spread a 3-inch layer of compost, such as aged manure, into the garden bed. Incorporate the compost into the soil, using a shovel.

Poke the handle end of a garden spade 1 to 1 1/2 inches deep into the garden bed to create planting holes. Space the holes 12 inches apart. Place one sunflower seed in each hole when they sprout between the paper towels.

Cover the seeds with the garden soil. Water the seeds with a watering can until the soil is moist, but not flooded or puddled.

Water the sunflower plants whenever the soil appears slightly dry. If you keep the soil too wet, the soft soil may cause the heavy sunflower plant to tip over and become damaged or uprooted.

Tie the sunflower plants to tall wooden stakes with garden twine as they grow. The flower head is heavy and stakes prevent the sunflower's stems from bending and breaking due to this weight or strong winds.

Cover the sunflower head with cheesecloth when the back of the heads turn yellow. This protects the developing seeds from birds.

Cut it off the stem with sharp shears after the back of the flower head turns brown. Leave 12 inches of stem attached to the flower head.

Grasp the stem of the cut sunflower head. Rub your hand over the seeds to dislodge them. Or tie a paper bag over the sunflower head and hang it in the garage or on a porch until all the seeds have fallen into the bag.

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