For the past couple of weeks, my husband and I have been looking into purchasing land which has been keeping us a bit preoccupied, and yesterday while I was sitting outside pondering financing and daydreaming about greenhouses, I noticed a bird sitting on one of my now-very-sad-looking sunflowers and fiddling around. I figured something must have piqued that bird's interest, and although I dared not hope for seed from the sunflowers because of the drought and heat, I managed to walk over and inspect the sunflower heads. Brushing off some spent blooms, I was absolutely floored to discover that impossibly the sunflowers had managed enough strength to do the impossible! I grabbed my pruners, cut off the heads, and lowered the stems to the ground.
I brushed off all the petals and "mini blooms" at the center of the flower, scraped out the seed into a bucket of insecticidal soap mix (there was some scale and other nasty bugs), dried, and sorted. It was a surprisingly long process to obtain a pretty collection of seed, and I would do it differently given a chance to go back in time. However, it really wasn't that bad. I did it in two batches, and the second batch went more quickly. I'd recommend doing a single head for practice and then tackling the rest. I'd also recommend letting the head of the sunflower dry completely.
And something of interest is that the throw-away bits that come away from the head (e.g., rotten seed) are less dense than the potentially viable seed. You can gently roll the mix around in a pan and the less dense material will stay towards the top.
I might also buy some insecticidal dust for storing the seed because I'm paranoid about some critter being in my stockpile and eating through what I spent time to collect. Thoughts on this?
Of course, being in a seed collecting mood, I harvested some purple coneflower seed, datura seed, and okra seed.
Speaking of okra, I discovered why my Hill Country Red okra wasn't red. The fruit needs some sun exposure to turn red! Now that the okra is getting tall and searching out more light, there's more light hitting the fruit than when all the plants were tightly clustered together.
Now I need to find that darn sunflower packet to remember what sunflower I had planted. Bah.