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.