Taken from The Buzz
Today marks the autumnal equinox, the point in the year when the length of day and night are equal (the exact time this year is 11:09 p.m. ET). Starting tomorrow, the days will be getting shorter, the air brisker, the nights a little longer. Sunflowers and other garden plants that have been working hard to grow leaves and blooms now subtly switch tactics. The shorter days are a signal for them to devote most of their energy to making fruits and seeds against the time when they will eventually stop producing energy altogether and dry up.
Even though the days are shorter, there will still be blooms on many a sunflower throughout sunny September, so don’t forget to pick a day for your observation and send in your data. But while you’re at it, you may want to consider saving your Lemon Queen Sunflower seeds. If the birds and other critters don’t beat you to it, you could have a nice stash of sunflower seeds for planting or sharing next year. It’s easy. Just follow these steps:
1. Identify the earliest, biggest and best-looking sunflowers in your garden.
2. Watch and wait for the plant's seeds to ripen. When the flowers begin to drop away, you will see little green nubs all over the round head of the sunflower. In a week or so, they will begin to darken and the pollen tips will fall away easily.
3. Once the seeds are ripe, cut the sunflower head and carefully place it upside-down in a paper bag, ensuring any seeds that fall go directly into the bag.
4. Hang the bag in a cool, dry place.
5. Examine the seeds every few days. As they dry out, some the seeds will easily fall out of the flower head to the bottom of the bag.
6. When the seeds are dry (about 2 -3 weeks) remove the seeds completely from the head, separating out any leaves, stems or other debris.
7. Store in a closed container and label with the year and type of seed. If stored away from moisture, most seeds will be viable for the next few years.
Sunflower varieties readily mate. When they do that, the seeds produce plants that are intermediate between the two parent types. This means that if a bee brought in pollen from one of your neighbors Mammoth sunflowers, next years seed will not be true Lemon Queen. So, while we’d love to have everyone grow a lot of sunflowers for bee and bird food, the only way we can be sure that your plants are Lemon Queen each years is to buy them from a grower. There is such variation in the amount of nectar, pollen and flower color among the sunflowers that we need to standardize our observation plants.
Our 2011 calendar is now on sale. The theme is “Bees and Food” and can be ordered through the web site. http://www.greatsunflower.org