Top of the Crops - Sunflower

Growing Sunflowers in a Polytunnel

The sunflower is a beautiful annual flower with brings a ray of sunshine to your polytunnel or garden. While you can grow sunflowers easily outside in a sheltered and sunny spot without too much wind, a polytunnel can help you to grow these smiling faces in windier or more exposed locations where these tall plants can fare rather badly sometimes. Growing sunflowers in a polytunnel will also offer protection from pests and allow you to get the seeds for yourself before they are all eaten by other creatures with whom you share your garden.

Sowing and Growing Requirements for Sunflowers

Sunflowers are very easy to grow from seed and make a perfect project for children or other novice gardeners. You can choose seeds which will provide giants, or much smaller sunflowers that are ideal for a modestly sized polytunnel. Modern cultivars are also available that give multiple sunflower heads on one plant – ideal if you wish to cultivate sunflowers to eat the seeds.

You can sow smaller sunflowers directly into the ground of your polytunnel (or into pots) in April or May. Do be aware how tall the sunflowers you have chosen will grow, as this will obviously have a bearing on where they can be grown. Bear in mind that taller sunflowers will require staking with a bamboo cane or some similar support.

Do not forget to water your sunflowers over the summer months to ensure that the soil around the roots remains moist. Sunflowers do like a fertile spot with good soil nutrition and can be hungry plants so it can be a good idea, to ensure that your sunflowers get plenty of nutrients, to mulch well with organic matter and perhaps to feed with a good quality organic plant feed.

Allow the flower heads to mature fully and the seeds to form before harvesting the heads and collecting the sunflower seeds.

Harvesting Sunflowers

Most people do not think of growing sunflowers as a crop, though sunflower seeds are tasty and nutritious and could be a good addition to your kitchen garden, as well as being an appealing ornamental flower. Birds will love the seeds too, though be sure to save plenty for topping savoury crumbles, adding to granola mixes and breads for added nutrition and for use in a wide range of delicious recipes. Sunflower seeds are very healthy and a good source of many essential nutrients and vitamins.

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