Sunflowers

Asked September 14, 2018, 2:49 PM EDT

I have a large patch of sunflowers (first time). Can these be harvested for the birds? If so, any tips? If i leave these in my raised beds through the fall, will i be sorry next spring when i may have more than i ever imagined? Thanks,

Marion County Oregon sunflowers horticulture

1 Response

Thanks for your question about harvesting sunflower seeds - and for growing them for the birds! You can certainly harvest them, but why go to all that trouble? If you leave them standing, they will ripen and the birds will quite happily do the harvesting themselves.
A sunflower naturally hangs its head down horizontally when the seeds are ripening - this protects them from rain and allows them to fall on the ground. Small birds like chickadees and nuthatches are quite comfortable pulling seeds out while upside down. If the heads are very big, you might need to provide some additional support, or cut the heads off and hang them somewhere you can enjoy watching the birds.
As to excess seedlings, yes, you will have some, just as you will if you put a birdfeeder out. But, they are very easy to identify and pull up - and you can let a few grow to have another patch next year. By leaving them to sprout on their own, you guarantee they will sprout at the optimum time for growth next year.