Birds not only bring sound and color into the garden, they can help eliminate insect pests that damage your plants. The least you can do is repay them with some of their favorite food -- black-oil sunflower seeds.
Songbirds including finches, chickadees, titmice, nuthatches and jays are all attracted to black-oil sunflower seed. This type of seed has a softer shell than the gray-striped type, with a larger meat that has a high oil content that provides more energy for the birds. They are the type commonly used for commercial bird seed, a widely grown cultivar that you can plant in your own backyard.
Sow seeds when the soil temperature warms to at least 70 degrees Fahrenheit, 1 1/2 inch deep in clusters of three seeds with clusters 6 to 12 inches apart, depending on how large your want the mature plant to be -- space farther apart, the larger you expect your black-oil cultivar to grow. When you are planting in rows, they should be 3 feet apart. Water in well. Seeds should germinate in 10 to 14 days. Thin seedlings to the strongest plant in each cluster when plants are 3 to 4 inches tall. Snip the extra seedlings off at ground level with scissors to avoid disturbing the roots of the strongest plant. Mound soil up several inches around the base of remaining sunflowers.The plants will establish additional roots to help support your black-oil sunflowers' 4- to 5-foot stems.