September is a transition month from summer into fall.
It is when cooler nights intensify colors no more so than those of the sunflower’s yellow, orange and even burgundy ray petals. It is then that the sunflower dominates the garden.
It is not just a pretty flower, it has many useful purposes for us. Its seeds provide food for birds and humans alike. The seeds are high in vitamin E and selenium that help prevent diseases, give us healthy tasty snacks and the oil is praised by cooks, in addition the heads being a great fall decorative favorite.
September and October are prime time for harvest. According to National Garden Bureau “when petals wilt and the back of the flower head is dry and brown, cut the head to dry.” Place in a paper sack or fine mesh bag, and hang in a well-ventilated and warm place for several weeks. When dried, shake the bag to dislodge the seed or run your fingers over the seeds. Store in airtight glass jars in the refrigerator to retain their flavor.
These easy and tasty roasted sunflower seed recipes are from Botanical Interests.
First, spread a layer of seeds on a cookie sheet and roast at 300 degrees for 30-40 minutes until golden. Taste some with cracked shells to see if they are totally roasted. While warm toss seed in a mix of a teaspoon of melted butter per cup of seeds.
You can also try salted seeds in the shell. For this, soak seeds overnight in salted water (1/4 cup to a quart), drain, pat dry and roast as above.
You can email me to learn how to make sunflower seed oil.
Don’t forget the birds. Hang the heads from branches or attach to a wreath. Do not hang on a door as birds will leave shells and their droppings.
Things To Do
“Half the interest of a garden is the constant exercise of the imagination.”
— Alice Morse Earle, author and gardener, 1851-1911.
Poison Ivy — It has returned. Just touching the vine, leaves, roots and stem (live or dead) will transfer the urshiol oil and penetrate damp to wet clothing. Wear long pants and sleeves and gloves that cover sleeve wrists. Tuck pants into rubber boots. Carry baby wipes to sterilize tool handles and anything touched including clothing when undressing. Remember the oil is easily transferred to others and infection can be serious.
Deadhead fading — flowers to produce more blooms. Every 3-5 years divide yarrow, remove dead centers and replant in full sun well-drained soil. Cut flowers above the next flower bud for more blooms. Recut stems underwater for longer lasting cut flowers.
Take advantage of online nurseries’ pre-holiday and spring pre-order sales. Many include free shipping.
Houseplants — Move houseplants inside for the winter before the first frost. Christmas and Thanksgiving cactus remain outside until the overnight temperature consistently is 50 degrees. Feed spider plants every 2-4 weeks with houseplant fertilizer and bottom water as leaves appear to wilt..
Trees and shrubs — Plant ornamentals. Before planting prepare holes. Water the day before to check on drainage. Prune any roots that are circling the root ball. Mound soil in the center of the hole to rest the plant on and spread roots over it. As soil is added, make sure that soil is under the root ball and sides, continue to add soil to the plant’s soil line, and water in. Check the plant the next day, adding soil and water as needed. Elevate the root ball some if the lawn is on an automatic irrigation system.
Mid-September to mid-October, Elk Bugling, at Elk-Bison Prairie — Land Between the Lakes. For more information call 800-525-7077, fee $5 per car.
Contact Carolyn Roof, the Sun’s gardening columnist at, email@example.com