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I have an area I wanted to plant in sunflowers this year. In the past I have planted the grey sunflower seeds and they have huge heads and usually ended up breaking off before the birds could clean them off (so alot of seed rotted and wasted). I'd rather leave them in the garden and let the birds/wildlife feed on them and feed the stalks to whatever critters may be left here this fall (at the moment only my brother pair of angus heifers).

Has anyone ever planted the black oil type sunflowers that are sold for bird seed? How tall of a plant do they get, how big is the head? In the past when I have done this, this is the cheapest way to plant a lot rather than buy the packages of sunflower seeds.

Or should I plant some of the ornamental sunflower seeds? There are some really pretty red ones out there but I've wondered how much seed they produce. Wild sunflowers grow around here but they have very small heads but dozens per plant. I am thinking of going and digging up some or collecting their seeds to get some started around my house (the closest area they are growing now is down by the creek).

Or should I stick with the big headed grey sunflower seeds?

Thank you all in advance,

Mel-
 

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We planted the black oils year before last and they grew like crazy. They are really cool....about 3-4' tall and multiheaded. We had no trouble with them tipping over....so I say go for it! Oh, and we just used some that got spilled out of the feed sack, didn't buy special "seed" seeds.
 

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We plant several acres of the black oil sunflowers for the birds and wildlife (deer love them). We just plant and fertilize them when we do the corn. We do this with a two row planter that runs behind the tractor. I purchase the bags of bird seed from walmart and it works!
 

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We have several varieties of sunflowers to plant this year. Any special planting instructions for the flowers? Are you saying you don't need to support them? We want to grow some for feed for the goats and some for the flowers to sell.
 

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thanks to all for your replies! I think I'll just go ahead and plant both, striped and oil. I read somewhere on the net that the striped are actually a more perfect food for the birds since it had a better balance of protein and fat.

Hank, I didn't support the striped the year I planted them, they probably got around 10 feet high maybe 8. The stood up well until early winter or very late fall. The stalks were very strong but once they started dying and drying out they became too weak to hold the huge heads up. I wanted to leave them in the field for the winter for them to self feed but ended up cutting the heads off once they were good and dry (alot were already half empty, I never saw so many blue jays together in one place in my life!).

The wild sunflowers that grow around here also get close to that height but they have heads that are probably a quarter or less the size of the striped ones and they grow where they have no support.

Mel-
 

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Hank & Narita,

We just planted in about a 4' wide swath along the garden (where it wasn't as well dug as ths main garden) and scattered the seeds thick and raked then in. It was very fast, and we really didn't lose too many to birds. They came up very thick and just went crazy. The goats loved them, even without taking all the pith off. We didn't support them but we did take them in late in the fall.
 
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