Preventing Birds from Eating Sunflower Seeds

Asked April 16, 2017, 7:26 PM EDT

Hello! A few weeks ago, I planted a mix of sunflower and calendula seeds along a sunny portion of fence in my south-facing front yard. I noticed the neighborhood crows being more talkative than usual, but I assumed it was because they were excited by the grubs exposed by the new vegetable beds I'd dug the same day. No more than 24 hours later, I found my stretch of sunflower and calendula disturbed, and covered with empty sunflower-seed shells! In the 2 or 3 weeks since, the calendula has sprouted beautifully, but no sunflower sprouts at all. I had the same problem last year. (Same house.) How do I keep the birds and squirrels from going after my sunflower seeds? Thank you, Maia

Multnomah County Oregon human-wildlife issues horticulture

1 Response

Hello Maia,

Birds, especially the larger ones and squirrels all love sunflower seeds. To get sunflowers you need to protect the seeds, giving them a chance to germinate and grow. Probably the easiest way is to shield the seeds with a tunnel of row cover (available at your local garden center or nursery). When the sunflower plants are large enough, remove the row cover.

Sunflowers are slow to germinate - 7-10 days. They need to be planted in full sun about an inch deep. When about 6" tall thin them to about two feet apart depending on the variety. They have long tap roots, so should be watered deeply about once a week, unless it's very hot and dry.