In 1995 Nicholas took a bird watching holiday in Argentina, returning with black sunflower seeds for his wife, Anne to grow in the garden. After flowering, the sunflowers were left for the birds to harvest naturally.
The resulting increase in birds to the garden was dramatic, attracting a great deal of attention from fellow birdwatchers. Thus the idea ‘seeded’ for Nicholas to provide other bird lovers with the same opportunity in their own garden, and the decision was taken to start commercially growing black sunflowers on the farm and sell the seeds as part of the ever-expanding bird food business. Vine House Farm is only one of a few sunflower growers in the UK, and the largest in the UK. Due to the specific growth requirements mean that Lincolnshire is the furthest north Sunflowers are able to be commercially grown.
When do you plant sunflowers?
We drill the black sunflower seeds during April and May – the exact time being dependant on the weather and specifically ensuring that the ground isn’t too wet. Like the other types of bird seed and cereals we grow, we use a seed drill behind a tractor to get the black sunflower seeds into the ground and at just the right depth and distance from each other.
When and how do you harvest your sunflowers?
The harvesting of our black sunflower seeds takes place around late September to early October - a yield that also replenishes stock of our popular sunflower hearts. Again the exact timing is partly weather dependent, but the key factor is waiting for the large flower heads to die-off, turn brown, and therefore meaning the seeds will have a lower moisture content. A combine harvester is used to bring the crop in.
Visit our UK Sunflower field in Lincolnshire
We grow over 100 acres of sunflowers on our farm each year, and when in full bloom the fields of bright yellow are a truly stunning sight. So it’s well worth a visit to our farm in Deeping St Nicholas to join one of our Sunflower walks, which we hold a number of each year during August – see here for details.