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How to Grow Canary Seed

Canary seed (Phalaris canariensis) is a popular feed for caged and wild birds. Commercial canary seed production became widespread throughout parts of Minnesota and South Dakota after World War II, according to the Government of Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development. An annual grass, canary seed takes 105 to 110 days to reach maturity after planting. Canary seed grows well wherever wheat flourishes but is not as drought tolerant. It can easily tolerate heavy, clay-based soils.

Till the soil to a depth of 4 to 6 inches. Remove all weed growth.

Sow canary seed when the soil temperature reaches 46 degrees Fahrenheit. This usually occurs in May.

Water the seedbed thoroughly. Canary seeds are exceptionally small so seeding into a moist seedbed will help the tiny seeds to germinate.

Use 27 to 35 pounds of canary seed per acre when seeding. Plant seeds at a depth of 2 inches using a seed broadcaster or a grain drill. Space the seed rows 7 inches apart. Roll the seeds into the soil.

Watch for aphids on the young canary seeds after germination occurs. If aphids are present, use an approved aphid control insecticide, such as Malathion, to treat. Apply the insecticide in mid to late July for best control.


Never seed canary seed on a flax stubble seedbed because the two are very hard to differentiate once grown.

Always plant clean purchased seed to avoid unwanted weed growth.

Rotate canary seed crops every two years to prevent the spread of unwanted diseases.

Harvest canary seeds using straight combining.


Wait two or more years before seeding with canary seed if the soil has been treated with trifluralin or ethalfluralin products.

Canary seed is extremely sensitive to fertilizing at the time of seeding and thereafter. A soil test should be performed before deciding on how much fertilizer will be needed.

The dust of canary seed prior to harvest is very irritating to the skin and respiratory tract of many humans and animals.

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