Are you planning to grow black oil sunflower crops this coming season? Growing sunflowers can be a rewarding and enjoyable gardening experience. These sunflowers are aesthetically pleasing, with dark center disks and bright yellow petals. And if you love watching birds, the seeds are a great source of bird food. They attract birds like finches, nuthatches, chickadees, grosbeaks, northern cardinals, weaver birds, and even woodpeckers.
Growing black oil sunflower crops requires an informed selection of the location, soil preparation, seed selection, right planting, tendering, and harvesting time. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to grow black oil sunflowers:
Choose The Right Location
Choosing the right location is the first step to growing a vibrant black oil sunflower crop. Sunflowers love the sun, so your selection should be a sunny spot in your garden or yard. Your sunflowers should receive at least 6-8 hours of direct sunlight daily. Ensure that you avoid planting the seeds under shades. Also, the location should have well-draining soil. Lack of proper water infiltration into the soil will cause logged conditions, yellowing your plants, and withering or death.
Once you establish the right location in your garden, next is preparing the soil for planting. Sunflowers are relatively tolerant of soil conditions but prefer a well-draining medium with a pH of 6.0 to 7.5. You can adjust the soil with compost to improve fertility. If you are unsure about your soil pH, contact a soil testing agency near your region for proper analysis.
Select Your Black Oil Sunflower Seeds
One of the right procedures for selecting your seeds is purchasing them from a reputable seed supplier or garden center. These seeds undergo the right breeding and selection and are ready to plant. Also, the suppliers sell the specific varieties that match your location. When you select the right seeds, you will get high-oil-content sunflower seeds. Avoid planting seeds from your last crop or your neighbors.
A bountiful harvest depends on the planting time. If you plant during the wrong season, your crop might not do well. Plant your black oil sunflower seeds in the spring after the last frost date in your area. The soil temperature for sunflowers should be around 50°F (10°C) or higher. There are several aspects of planting your favorite crop.
Besides the choice of seeds and timing, spacing plays an important role in the growth rate of sunflowers and the yield. When planting, ensure a 6″ space between the seeds. The depth should be about 1 inch. Deeper than that will extend the germination period. You can plant multiple rows, leaving enough space, 65 cm, between them to facilitate growth and airflow.
Watering is essential in all plants. If you are not depending on rain, you must devise ways of keeping the soil moist. By moist, we do not mean waterlogging the medium. Keep the moisture at good levels to ensure that the sunflowers germinate. It will take about 7-10 days. Once they germinate and establish the roots, sunflowers are relatively drought-tolerant. You will only need to water deeply and less frequently.
Thinning The Black Oil Sunflowers
When planting, the seeds may exceed the requirements per hole. Also, the spacing of 6″ isn’t ideal for healthy plant growth. They will show after germination. Allow the sunflower seedlings to reach a height of about 2-3 inches before thinning them. We thin the plants by uprooting the weak ones and leaving the strongest seedlings. Ensure that the spacing is about 1-1.5 feet apart after thinning. The right spacing allows the remaining plants to have enough space to grow to their full height.
After thinning, you expect vibrant growth. You need to enhance it by fertilizing the soil. However, sunflowers usually don’t require heavy fertilization. Test if your soil lacks nutrients by applying a slow-release fertilizer with balanced nutrients. Check the manufacturer’smanufacturer’s instructions on the fertilizer package. Be cautious not to over-fertilize, leading to overly tall, weak-stemmed plants.
Sunflowers love moist soil but not waterlogged. Applying mulch around the base of these plants helps retain soil moisture and reduce weed competition. Organic mulch like straw or wood chips works well.
Here are the benefits of mulching your sunflower garden;
Mulch minimizes weed growth by blocking sunlight from reaching weed seeds and inhibiting their germination. This process also reduces the competition between weeds and desired plants for nutrients, water, and space, saving you time and effort in weeding.
Mulch is a protective layer that reduces water evaporation from the soil surface. In the process, there is consistent soil moisture for your plants, thus reducing the need for frequent watering. Mulching makes your garden more drought-resistant.
Mulch acts as an insulator, moderating soil temperatures and keeping it cool in hot weather and warmer in cold weather, which is beneficial for plant roots. This temperature stability promotes healthier root development and plant growth.
Soil Erosion Prevention
Mulch creates a barrier that protects the topsoil from erosion caused by wind and water. Preventing soil erosion is important on slopes and in areas prone to heavy rainfall. By preventing soil erosion, mulch helps maintain soil structure and fertility.
Improved Soil Health
As organic mulch, like wood chips or compost, decomposes over time, it enriches the soil with valuable nutrients. It also encourages beneficial microorganisms to thrive in the soil. Mulch can improve soil structure, making it more crumbly and better for plant root growth.
Supporting The Tall Varieties
This step is crucial as it supports the tall varieties to avoid bending or breaking on windy days. Prepare stakes or trellises and hammer them at least two inches from the stems. The stakes should go deep enough into the ground to avoid leaning or tipping over. If necessary, use a rubber mallet or place cushioning material between the hammer and the stake to avoid damage. Tie the plant to the stakes and be gentle to avoid breaking the stems and twines. You can start tying the sunflower to the stake when it reaches a height of around 1-2 feet. Avoid tying it too tightly to allow for some flexibility. Also, remember to check and adjust the stake at intervals of about 12-18 inches as the plant grows taller.
Pest and Disease Management
Managing and tendering to your plants is crucial in sunflower farming. Do not plant and go on a vacation. Many pests love sunflowers, including the common ones like aphids, snails, and slugs. Address the attacks using organic methods and keep practicing good garden hygiene to keep diseases away.
At week 13, after planting, your plants will begin to flower. The flowers take almost three weeks to bloom. After that, the seeds begin to form. When fully ripe, the flower head will begin to droop. The flower head’s back will turn yellow or brown, and your seeds will appear full and mature. This precious moment has taken almost 100 days, and it is harvesting time, one of the happiest moments for a grower. Harvesting sunflowers is easy. Use a sharp knife to cut off the flower heads. But they are not yet dry, so spread them in a dry, well-ventilated space for slow drying. Drying sunflower seeds can take up to three weeks, depending on the climatic conditions. Once dry, store them well for sale, cold pressing, or feed your birds.
Growing black oil sunflower crops enhances the visual appeal of your garden. Also, the seeds attract a variety of birds. The plants make a wonderful addition to any outdoor space. Besides, you can cold press your seeds for pure sunflower oil for home use using an extractor. Enjoy the process and the wildlife that these sunflowers will inevitably attract.