Thursday, March 5, 2009

A birdseed garden

Last year a bumper crop of sunflowers sprouted from seed I hadn't sown. Mostly they came from the black oil or striped sunflower seeds the birds dropped or scattered the previous winter. I enjoyed the blooms so much, I decided to add some different shapes and colors this spring.

Nothing could be easier than sunflowers as proven by the outstanding plants the birds grew. Really, if birds can grow sunflowers, anyone can. I remember a few years ago sunflowers were growing in the soybean fields around me (again courtesy of the birds). It was quite a site, this sea of beans with the occasional sunflower sticking up several feet taller;) The farmer who leased that field wasn't as aggressive with herbicides as the current one.

Sunflowers are somewhat drought tolerant which appeals to me. It's pretty much a plant 'em and forget 'em style. Sometimes the very tall ones lean to the point they need staking but the shorter ones stand up pretty well on their own. Sunflowers are tender annuals so they won't tolerate cold weather. I wait until the soil warms and there is no chance of frost before planting them outside. (The birds haven't read that rule and their sunflowers grow anyway;)

The bees love sunflowers, unless you get one of the pollen free hybrids. Later in the summer the goldfinches perch on the dried blooms trying to find the first ripe seeds.

This spring I'm sure the birds will plant another garden of sunflower. I'll leave most of them to grow and bloom. I hope they like these new hybrids I have chosen.

I chose a mix of seeds like this (from Park Seeds - Van Gogh Mix). Blooms are singles and doubles from 5 to 10 inches in across. These plants are all around 5-feet tall so they will give height to the garden.

These Jewel Toned red, gold and bronze are from Parks Seed also. The plants are 6 to 10 feet tall so stake them well or they may fall.

If you haven't a good spot for the tall ones, Parks Solar Babies Mix is only one to two feet tall.

With any of these sunflowers , succession-plant every two weeks to enjoy blooms over a long period.

A note for anyone interested in wild birds. Monday afternoon I found a Goldfinch sitting on the lane into my farm. It appeared to be stunned altho I don't know why or how. It allowed me to pick it up and only struggled weakly as I held it.

I carried it home and put it into an old bird cage with plenty of food and water. It remained huddled on the cage floor for about 3 hours never moving. I didn't expect it to survive the night but thought at least it would be warm (outside temperature in the teens).

It relaxed a little as time passed and finally put its head under a wing and seemed to be sleeping. The following morning it was quiet but alive. That afternoon it was more active.

I'm hopeful it will recover but now I have a problem. It is illegal for me to have this bird. In fact I was breaking the law by even picking it up. I hope to find a licensed rehabber to keep it for a while. It's impossible for me to diagnose it, it may not be able to fly or have some injury. I think setting it free would be a mistake.

If anyone else has had a similar experience, please let me know your solution.


Susie said...

Oh my heart goes out to that little bird. I'm sorry I have no advice in the matter but I'm so glad you have taken care of him. I hope you find a solution to this problem.

As far as the sunflowers I have not grown them but I think you inspired me to try some. I think those jewel tones are very pretty but I would rather start out with the shorter variety.

Randy said...

I can't help you with the finch... Surely there has to be a rehab place near by somewhere.

Your sunflowers are going to be positively breath taking!--Randy

Roses and Lilacs said...

Good morning everyone. Just wanted to apologize for the vast empty spaces on this post. I was in such a rush I didn't have an hour to go back and fix the problem. This happens when I upload pictures to either the left or right side. If I center all photos things fit better.


tina said...

Good morning Marnie, The birds just truly love you! All those great sunflowers in your garden. A feast for human and avian types alike. I appreciate you said to plant every two weeks. It is important.

I think you should keep the goldfinch until it is feeling better. Hey, anything you can do to save it is a blessing. Good luck!

troutbirder said...

Hey Marnie... I think great minds must think along the same lines cause.... I ordered the same Van Gogh sunflower mix from Parks too. Lets compare results next fall!

Dog_geek said...

Love the sunflowers - we planted them all along our fenceline last year - a mix similar to those in your third picture (Jewel Toned) and they were awesome!

Several years back we found a young injured bluebird who, like your goldfinch, survived and was eating mealworms (which we luckily had on hand for our turtles). We were able to find a licensed rehabber to take him in after a day or two. I'm sure you can find one in your area.

Otherwise, I wouldn't stress too much about taking care of your goldfinch for a little while.

Rose said...

Poor little goldfinch--he was lucky you found him. I don't have any advice, either, unless there's a local group or agency you can call who could give you some advice.

I've never planted sunflowers before, but I received some seeds through Monica's seed swap, so this will be a first. I love all the varieties you've chosen--you should have birds flocking to your garden.

Dog_geek said...

PS - here's one listing of rehabbers by location - if there's not one listed that is close, you can probably contact others in your state and they might know of someone closer:

A Wild Thing said...

Last year one of the flooded homes near the Iowa River had a bounty of sunflowers growing in the ditch near their cabin, surrounded by the flood waters, it was a beautiful site, even when flooded...a golden path to destruction.

It's a wonderful warm day today already this mornin''s comin'...

beckie said...

Marnie, last year was the first time in years I had sunflowers. After watching the bees and birds they attracted, I wondered why on earth I had neglected to keep them in my gardens! Like you I have decided to plant more this year and have several varieties and colors. Won't it be fun!!

I wonder if your Vet might know of someone in your area? Good luck and I know that little finch thanks you even if the government doesen'r. :)

Anonymous said...

You are lucky those birds give you sunflowers. As for the goldfinch, maybe you need to ask advice from those in position to answer them.

Roses and Lilacs said...

Hi Susie, aren't those Jewel Tones beautiful? I almost think a person could have a gorgeous garden using nothing but sunflowers.

Hi Jamie and Randy, I think so too. It will be a long wait but worth it.

Hi Tina, I might have to do that, keep the finch that is. So far I have called every vet in town and the wildlife rehabbers too. Lots do mammals and raptors but nobody does song birds. Raptor rehab just feeds songbirds to the hawks. I don't like that idea.


Roses and Lilacs said...

Hey troutbirder, we are going to love these.

Hi DogGeek, so far no luck. Nobody thinks songbirds are worth bothering with I guess. Not as glamorous as raptors.

Hi Rose, hope you love your sunflowers. I can't wait to see which ones you got.

Hi Sharon, we deserve this warm spell. I'm hoping for an early spring.


Roses and Lilacs said...

Hi Beckie, I may end up getting a license altho I don't know what's involved. I've had great success in the past with songbirds that got into trouble. I raised a cedar waxwing and released it years ago and found another goldfinch frozen to the sidewalk one morning. Both did well and were released.

Roses and Lilacs said...

Blossom, I'm doing my best to find someone in that position. Thanks

Unknown said...

Mornin' Marnie,
The sunflowers are wonderful. I've only done them one year and they are so amazingly huge!!! It was fun and I need to do it again. They come back at my sisters house either by way of bird or reseeding and she has loads of them. So impressive.
Lucky you saw that little finch. I've picked them up and stroked them til they get their senses back after hitting my window but they usually come out of it pretty fast.
Anyone who would turn you in for helping a poor little bird really needs to get a life!

sweetbay said...

Marnie you have the right idea trying to find a wildlife rehabber.

The best sunflowers I've grown have always been volunteers! When we lived in Pennsylvania the birds planted one that had lemon-yellow flowers all over the branches, and they opened up several at a time. It was glorious, and I've never grown another multi-flowered sunflower (except for Tithonia) that I liked as well as that one.

Silverleaf Sunflower is a really nice sunflower. It's native to Texas and has a gracefulness that is unique to it. Seeds of Change has the seeds. I had Silverleaf Sunflowers a few years ago and am growing it again this year.

Roses and Lilacs said...

Hi Rairgardener, I can understand why the law reads as it does. People would be catching Goldfinches and other songbirds to keep in cages or to sell. And then too, so many people think putting a bird in a box will help it which is not the case. Birds need light. Their metabolism is so high they need to eat every 30 minutes or so during the daylight hours. They will not eat or drink in a dark place. I don't think anyone will turn me in.

Hi SweetBay, I've never heard of silver leaf sunflowers. Anything that grows in Texas would probably be drought and heat tolerant. I need to research these. I plan to post on tithonia in a few days. It's a favorite.


Anonymous said...

Sunflowers are one of my fav flowers to grow--or let grow. They raise themselves huh? I hope the little tweeter continues to do well.

Anonymous said...

Hi Marnie, poor little bird. I do hope you can find the proper people to give it too. Those sunflowers are just heavenly! I like the mixed colors of each packet that you chose. What a sight they will be. Can't wait to see your excellent photos of them!

100 Thoughts of Love said...

it's not like someone will turn you in! dying to try sunflowers...even in my little yard!

Pat said...

Goldfinch love our sunflowers.
Never seen such a beautiful selection of flowers before.
I'll have to figure out how to keep the squirrels away from them.
Maybe a cage?

Anonymous said...

This post makes me want to try sunflowers. I have never had luck with them! We do have cool summers here, but I know they grow here. Oh..the little bird sounds so sweet. No clue what to do though.

F Cameron said...

I've had "bird sown" sunflowers, too. Hopefully, your little finch will be fine.


Anonymous said...

Marnie...I have had a goldfinch for a couple of days..One time put a heating pad on low under half the cage. Warmth is the best for shock. Under half the cage so it can get away from it. In a pinch even a paperbag with a chip clip will do..I think I need to repost this advice from a rehabber...Did you check the state listing that someone posted in the comments?

BeadedTail said...

I sure hope that bird makes a full recovery. I'm glad you came along to help it!

As for the sunflowers, I had no idea there were other varieties. They are beautiful!

Also, I'm glad you decided to try handmade soap from Etsy and I have a feeling you'll really like it! It smells good and makes your skin feel wonderful!

Roses and Lilacs said...

FlowerGardenGirl, isn't it wonderful when you find flowers with no pests or problems?

Thanks Frances I hope the hybirds do as well as the birdseed;)

Hi Pat, your right. Let me know how the sunflowers work out.


Roses and Lilacs said...

Hi Patsi, those pesky squirrels;) Might as well give up and let them have what they want.

Hi Gayle, maybe it would be worth trying one more time;)

Cameron, the little finch is fine. I'm getting kind of attached to it.


Anonymous said...

Love the sunflowers. Reminds me that I ought to grow some. Glad you saved the Goldfinch. Wonderful birds. We get them in the winter, and in spring they fly away.~~Dee

Roses and Lilacs said...

Hi RamblingWoods, I made 8 calls and no one returned my call. Several people told me they don't do song birds. Found some rehabbers north of Chicago (over a hundred miles from me). I think the bird and I would both do better without the 100 mile drive.

Hi BeadedTail, thanks for enabling me into that wonderful soap;)


Nan and =^..^= said...

Hi Marnie,
Oh dear, it is always so worrisome when we find injured critters. Sounds like you knew what to do, sorry you're having trouble finding a rehabber in your area.
In Maine there is the Center for Wildlife. Here's a link to their website and you never know they may be able to help in some way with a connection or advice.
good luck!

Roses and Lilacs said...

Thanks Nan, it isn't critical, she is doing fine here. I'm a little concerned about one of its eyes.

Anonymous said...

Poor little bird! I'm sorry you haven't been able to find a rehabber in your area. Sounds like you're doing all you can do for the time being.

Wowzer! Those tall jewel-toned Sunflowers are gorgeous!!!

Cordwood Cabin said...

Poor little finch--kudos to you for rescuing the little fellow, regardless of the law. I hope you can find a rehabber who can help him.

And yes, that's not an ordinary yellow cuckoo bird, but a red-wing blackbird (I don't know why I never paint a regular yellow bird for one of these things). somehow, the little black birds just seem to fit.

Anonymous said...

Bless your heart for taking care of the poor little thing. Wish I could be of more help, sorry. Love all those beautiful sunflower photos, can't wait to see your garden full of their happy faces this summer.

TC said...

We usually have plenty of sunflowers too, a mix of all those you've listed. And you couldn't be more correct about how easy they are to grow.

I don't know what to tell you about the goldfinch. But I know you did what you thought was right and humane. That's what matters. And I doubt anyone would fault you for doing what you did to help the little thing.

Gail said...

Marnie, Your sunflower choices are wonderful! I have never tried growing them since I really have limited sunny spots....I love that bird planted seeds sprout where ever they can, while I struggle to get a few to grow under ideal circumstances!

I hope the bird is continuing to recover...we have windows that birds occasionally fly into...(this weekend neon streamers are going up to help them stay away from the glass) perhaps that was what stunned your finch?

Cosmo said...

Hi, Marnie--Believe it or not, I've had trouble growing sunflowers--even in full sun they flop and die--maybe the soil's too rich? I think it's great that you saved the bird--assuming that the law is there to protect the birds, I don't know how helping one could be illegal--but I don't have any other advice. I hope it continues to improve. Take care, and I'll check back in when I get back.

Meems said...

Hey. Your sunflowers sound like they will be plentiful between all your great choices and the ones the birds gift to you.

Honestly, I've never been a fan of sunflowers and have never grown them. But last year when I read on so many blogs how great they are for attracting beneficial bees to the garden I decided to look into the options. Last week I planted some autumn beauty which won't be the tallest plants (4-5' I think)or the biggest faces. If they work here I think they will be a good fit for me. They are planted right in between rows of pole beans and green beans. It will be an experience to see if they like it there.

Hope your gold finch is okay and you've found a solution for him.
Meems @ Hoe and Shovel

Monica the Garden Faerie said...

I do love sunflowers, all kinds, as they're just so friendly-looking, but especially the darker burnt-orange ones. I don't get any volunteer plants from birdseed because the ducks eat everything that spills to the ground, sometimes even the seed husks! I think I will plant some sunflowers in my beds out front, though!

Monica the Garden Faerie said...

About the bird, you can find a licensed rehabber, by state, here:

marmee said...

sunflowers are the essence of summer. i will be growing my gigantic grey striped mamoths again, i just loved them. i am trying a red variety this year. we will have to keep each other posted on the progress.

Susan English Mason said...

I hope the goldfinch is okay. Can you let us know how it turns out? it looks like you got some good ideas.

A Colorful World said...

Wow, your heart went out to that goldfinch! Naturally you wanted to help it. I hope it recovers very soon! LOVE the sunflower pictures, too! I enjoyed growing them a couple of years ago, and look forward to doing so again.

Great seeing your comment on my blog! Hope all is well.


The Birdlady said...

I always let my volunteer sunflowers grow too.

Iowa Victory Gardener said...

Hi Marnie,
I'll love to see your sunflower photos this summer ... you picked some real winners! I just about bought that Van Gogh mix a few years ago, and maybe we'll give it a try this year since we'll have more sun in the back yard. We planted them along our back fence line one year but the neighbor hated them ("They look like weeds!") and griped at us all summer. This year we have other areas that should now work when that tree is finally gone!

I hope your little goldfinch survives ... that would break my heart, I love them so much. Maybe if you can keep him healthy till it's a bit warmer you can let him loose again, fat and happy... :-)

Anonymous said...

Hi Marnie. I'm late commenting on your post since I haven't been around this past week ~ I hope you've found a solution by now for the injured goldfinch. Do you think it could have suffered a glancing blow from a passing car?? I would have done the exact same thing you did, there's no way I could leave him out in the cold. Where I used to live, we had a woman in town known as the "bird lady." She took in all sorts of injured birds and that sounds like the kind of person you're looking for. Maybe you've been able to locate one? I hope you'll keep us updated on the progress of the goldfinch??

Now to the sunflowers ~ you'll be so happy you grew them (and the birds will love you even more). Looks like you've picked a nice variety. I've never noticed the double ones before?? I also ordered more seed this year so I'll be growing them right along with you. I'll start mine in the house in mid April tho instead of sowing directly into the ground. I have better luck that way for some reason??

ChrisND said...

The sunflowers are wonderful. We had one of the ornamental mixes this last year...they grew very tall. The bees loved them, the birds loved them, and the dogs loved them (the dead stocks make fun toys to drag around).

I hope you found a good resolution with your bird. This summer I found a bird sitting on our sidewalk. I went in the house and got some gloves to see what was wrong...apparently it had been scared through the fence (probably by a dog). It sat in my hand for a while and then flew I think it was okay.

Mary said...

Glad to know that I'm not the only one to let the seed grow that falls under the feeders. My goldfinches love any kind of sunflower that comes up!

Anonymous said...

That's the sweetest story I've heard in a long time and very welcome when the news is reporting such dreary stuff. You are very kind and who could pass this helpless little bird--not me. I'd tell the authorities that it's against the law to kill. They don't want us bloggers after them anyway.