Tuesday, December 1, 2015

My Sunflower Seed Disaster

Last summer I grew some sunflowers to provide our pollinating insects with one of their favorite nectar and pollen sources and then to harvest the seeds to help feed the wild birds over the winter.  I knew I didn't plant enough to feed the birds for the entire winter, but thought the seeds might last at least a few weeks.

Fading Sunflower

I watched with happiness as my sunflowers grew, flowered and formed seed heads.

Drying sunflower

The little flowers on the heads dried and began to fall off.

Ripening sunflower seeds

The warm sunshine of August and September ripened the seeds.

Sunflower seeds

The striped seeds could be seen drying in the sun.  We started to have some cooler temperatures and some rain one morning followed by a sunny, warm afternoon, so I harvested most of the seed heads and brought them inside to continue drying.  I have them a couple of hours in a warm oven to try to make sure they were dry,  I let them cool overnight and to prevent any rodents from getting into them, I put the seeds, heads and all into some empty metal coffee cans with plastic lids.  A couple of months passed and we had our first few inches of snow that stuck and an extended cold spell with temperatures staying below freezing for several days.  Certain by now all of the bears would be in hibernation, I pulled out my bird feeders and pulled out the containers with my home-grown sunflower seeds.

Mold growing on a sunflower seed head
They obviously hadn't been dried enough or I should have removed all of the seeds from the seed heads or maybe both because they were covered with ugly grey mold and totally unusable.  Into the compost pile they went and I bought sunflower seed to fill my bird feeders.  Any tips on harvesting and preparing sunflower seeds for storage would be appreciated!


  1. hi, when I grow sunflowers for seed for the livestock, I take the dried heads with enough stalk to be handle, tie three together an hang them for dried storage, they must stay dry and with airflow, if you want to store them, then need to deseed the heads, dry them slow till brittle shells, no softness or flex and then into either bags or jars, I store my human boiled salted seeds in very dry jars and my feed seeds in plastic bags. Thanks for stopping by just another day on the farm, I am looking forward to reading your blog

    1. Thank you for the tips. I'll keep them in mind for next year.

  2. I had this half happen last year. I hung many of the flower heads in our shed to dry but the last few got tossed into a bucket and forgotten. The bucket was in the garage and though it's dry in there all the parts of the seed head that touched anything else (side or bottom of the bucket, each other etc) did not dry thoroughly and had a bit of mold on it. I was lucky enough to be able to just pull those chunks off and use the rest, but I still lost a bit. The ones I had hung and left till I was ready to use them were great though!

    So, my advice would be to hang them in a dry area for a few weeks at least. Removing the seeds from the head before storing also takes away a source of moisture. Then I would store them in a paper bag in a dry spot till you're ready to use them. I hope you have better luck next harvest!

    Thanks for linking up with Green Thumb Thursday! I hope to see you back this week!


    1. Thank you for the tips. I'll try again next year.