Close up of Peredovik sunflower heads-after the flower petals fall exposing the seeds
Peredovik Black Oil Sunflower in bloom
Today I planted my Peredovik Black Oil Sunflower Seed from Russia. They are the black oil sunflower seeds that the birds love to eat and this is the variety that is in your bird seed mix that you buy in the store. They are particularly good because they are high in natural fat giving the birds energy. This makes them the best choice of sunflower for feeding birds although the birds love all varieties of sunflower seeds.
I got mine for 2016 from Southern Seed Exchange and can’t wait for them to come up. Just plant like any other sunflower seed mixed in your garden with other flowers. They have multiple heads on each stalk. They won’t be as tall as some of the giant sunflowers usually reaching 4-5 feet tall but it’s nice to know I’m helping the birds. After they flower, I leave the heads on and it’s fun to watch the birds eat them right off the plant in the fall. I leave them well into winter where the wild birds will continue to get the seeds out of the heads.
Goldfinches at nyjer feeder
I’ve been investigating to see if we can plant Nyjer bird seed from the package seed we buy for birds. Nyger, niger or thistle bird seed are all names for the same bird seed from Africa. The official name, nyjer, was picked in 1988 so as not to offend anyone with the name niger or to confuse anyone about it possibly being a thistle seed. It is not our common thistle that we consider a weed here in the US. Finches, pine siskins, and goldfinches particularly like it but other birds do not. To prevent any weed seeds that may be in the nyjer and to prevent the non-native plant (nyjer) themselves from sprouting, all nyjer seed is now sterlized by heat and therefore not able to germinate. Perhaps this is for the best because even though it is not a weed, it spreads like one in it’s native land but does not grow well in the US. This heat sterilization is the reason for its high cost. So unlike the BLACK OIL SUNFLOWER SEED that we CAN plant and harvest for the wild birds, we will NOT be able to grow thistle. Too bad cause it’s so expensive.
I just came back from the bird store where I got some black oil sunflower seeds for my wild birds when I thought why not grow my own for next year? My favorite sunflower up to now has been the Titan sunflower which is a striped seed and is not a black oil seed. Black oil seeds compared to striped sunflower seeds have a higher oil content and are meatier for birds. They are also easier for small birds to crack open. I already cut off the sunflower heads from sunflowers for birds so why not give them what is really good for them. One variety of black oil sunflower seed that I found is Peredovik Black Oil Sunflower Seed from Russia. In 2016 you can get it at Southern Exposure Seed Exchange. You can also just plant the black oil seed you get in your birdseed. I read that the sunflowers grow from 3-6 feet tall. So this year I’m going to add them in with my other sunflowers that I grow for a treat for the wild birds.
Hmm, now I wonder if I can grow that real expensive finch seed, Nyger? I’ll have to look into that! It is super expensive but I don’t know if it will grow here. I’ll get back to you on that one..
2014 update: Try to grow some from your birdseed mix but if yours don’t grow from your birdseed, go to the site above to buy some that will germinate. This is the most current seed company to buy from.
Now that winter is here, check bird feeders daily. We still have many feathered friends and more than ever they need our help at this time of year. Experts recommend giving birds black oil sunflower seeds because of their high fat content in addition to their regular food. Put some in your feeder and don’t forget to put some on the ground so the ground feeding birds can get some too. We have a covey of Scale Quail that have visited us since summer and continue to do so this winter. They can’t get in the feeder so we’re sure to put some out on the ground and even on the snow for them. We were lucky enough to see them bringing their babies for food and water in the fall.
Bluebirds only visit us in the winter getting water every day, flying further north I guess in the summer. Woodpeckers, Flickers and even Magpies will come and visit you if you put out suet for them. Other birds include Robins, Thrashers and of course the Pinon Jays among many others. This is the time of year when birds need more of our help as food and water are more scarce. Don’t forget fresh water and if it is frozen, put on a teakettle and put the hot water over the ice, melting it just enough for them. Don’t worry about burning the birds, the water cools immediately when it hits the ice water. It is actually harder for birds to find water they can drink in winter.
corn under row cover
Battle with the birds! I will have to replant the scarlet runner beans as the birds got the seedlings. The row cover I put on where I planted the seeds blew off and the birds were able to get to the seedlings before I could cover them again. Yum bean sprouts! Some of the winter squash seeds got picked out before it even germinated so I replanted that also. Row cover is great stuff-it keeps birds, rabbits and bugs out, you can water through it, it provides some shade protection from the UV rays here in Santa Fe at 7000 feet altitude and it helps against hail (unless it is huge) by diverting the hail from punching holes in big leaf plants like pumpkins and winter squash. I keep lightweight row cover (.03-.05) on until the plants start to flower and then you need to take it off for the pollinators to do their thing. As you can see in the picture I uncovered the corn seedlings which are under the row cover. The drip system is also under the row cover and the seedlings are coming up under it. After the seedlings are bigger, the birds won’t be interested and I will take it off. A friend of mine reported that her birds have even poked holes in her row cover-at least my birds haven’t figure out how to do that!
Ok, enough of the white stuff! Went out after work Friday night Mar.20th and drove home in a blizzard whiteout. Pretty scary! Yesterday, Saturday morning, it looked like this but that didn’t stop this flicker from coming to the feeder to rest before he went to the suet feeder to eat. We have 5 flickers staying here this spring. I’m curious if they are done with winter too! Inside the plants look good..
I just realize it looks like from the photos so far that I only grow giant pumpkins so I want to show you some titan sunflowers which got 10 feet tall last year. Really beautiful. Can’t wait to grow them again this year. The birds love them too. I call them the guardian angels of the garden.
guardian angels of the garden