Master Gardeners offer gardening help desk at Eureka Library

University of Illinois Extension Services

Have you ever considered extending your sunflower crop by drying and saving seeds? Check with your Woodford County Master Gardeners to hear how! (Photo courtesy of University of Illinois Extension)

Do you want to save seed this year? Is there a problem with your yard or garden? Are pests and weeds concerning you? University of Illinois Extension Woodford County Master Gardeners’ Help Desk offers the community a unique opportunity to bring in your gardening questions and receive well-researched answers.

The next walk-in help desk will be from 4:30 to 6 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 20 at the Eureka Public Library, 202 S. Main St., Eureka. University of Illinois Extension Master Gardeners have already helped Woodford County gardeners in a variety of ways this year. Extension Horticulture Educator Kelly Allsup or a Woodford County Master Gardener will respond with a researched answer that will be sure to ease your garden woes.

The help desk will be followed by a program on seed saving, presented by Woodford County Master Gardener Gretchen Strauch. Learn important concepts and techniques for seed saving while discussing the proper harvesting and seed storage strategy

Brittnay Haag, Horticulture educator offers a few tips on drying and saving sunflower seeds. The sunflowers were gorgeous when in full bloom- so bright and cheery. Now try your hand at drying the large seed heads. You can leave the seed heads in the garden to dry — the birds and squirrels will thank you for this treat.

If you want to harvest the seeds for yourself, here are different methods to try.

Clip and hang the heads to dry

When the back of the flower head changes from green to yellow, cut 6-inches down on the stem with pruners or a sharp knife. Remove any leaves that may be on the stem. Tie two stems together with rope or twine and hang them upside down in a dry, shaded area with good ventilation. Seeds are ready to harvest when the back of the flower head turns brown.

Dry heads on the stem

Flowers heads can also be dried in the garden. When the back of the flower head changes from green to yellow, place a paper bag around the flower heads to keep the squirrels and birds away. The seeds are ready to harvest when the back of the flower head turns brown.

Separating the seeds

Use your thumbs to rub the seeds off the flower head into a bucket. You can also take two ripe flower heads and rub them together to loosen the seeds. Enjoy your harvest. Eat them raw right off the dried flower, make a suet cake for the birds, save some seeds for next year, or roast the seeds for a tasty treat.

For more information just like this topic, keep up with your local Extension team by visiting us at University of Illinois Extension provides equal opportunities in programs and employment. If you need a reasonable accommodation to participate in this program, please call 309-467-3789.