Keep birds out of the garden

"snake"So you’re growing your own food. Great! Then the birds come in and eat your plants.

Not great.

Birds like to eat seedlings and fruit. I know of several methods to keep them away:

  • Use floating row cover for seedlings. Weight down the edges — you can use the fancy pins they sell, or just use dirt or rocks. When the leaves get to be 4″ or so, birds won’t eat most plants. (This is what we didn’t do soon enough with our peas … and the plants never lived to grow up. 😦 )
  • Use netting for trees. We got ours at a yard sale last year, via Craigslist. You drape it over the tree, and birds don’t want to tangle with it. Theoretically. (However, at a pick-your-own farm we went to last year, birds were INSIDE the net – not a pretty situation. They were scared AND eating the fruit. So use with caution.)
  • Use CDs a la Juliette Binoche (who used mirrors) in The English Patient. We have strung CDs (obviously, ones you don’t want back – the old, ubiquitous AOL CDs were perfect for this) on garden twine. When dangled over your garden plants, they sway and glisten in the sunlight — making the beds feel too risky for birds. (Pie tins can work, too — and it’s worth a try in fruit trees.)
  • Cut an old garden hose into 10-12″ lengths and lay it in the garden. Move it around when you are out. The “snake” might intimidate some of your feathered friends. (I just spotted what looked like a canyon wren — perhaps on its way to or from the mountains — prowling cockily around our lettuce seedlings and threw a couple of “snakes” into the garden — we’ll see if it works!)
  • Make somewhere else more worth their while. Put bird seed in an area far from your garden.
  • If you’re growing seed plants, like sunflowers, try covering the head with an old pantyhose so it can grow or dry, but birds can’t feast.
  • Get a dog or cat. It’s not THE reason to get a pet, but if you are considering it already, add it to your arsenal of reasons why. Our dog tears out toward the garden and scares the birds away, and between him and the neighborhood cat contingent, squirrels never venture onto the ground away from a tree out there.

What else works for you?


3 thoughts on “Keep birds out of the garden

  1. MendyluMac says:

    I am having to container garden this year instead of a traditional garden. Any ideas on keeping birds away from containers? Every year our home is invaded by Sterlings. There is a huge cow field across the road that brings in hundreds every spring and what a nuisance!

    Most of my plants are on or near my front porch. I have 4 dogs and 2 cats and the dang birds are still eating my plants! Since my dogs are almost always outside, the birds have learned to hit in the mornings before we are up or when its raining and the dogs are inside.

    Thankfully one of my cherry tomato plants is making a come back and is growing new leaves. I think my cantaloupe plants are gonners though. AND they’ve eaten my geraniums down to nubs! They were BIG plants and they still ate them! I’m at my wits ends with these dang birds. I love birds and I have feeders up all over my yard just to keep them in the yard and out of my plants but its not working!

    Any advice on what to do?? Please help!

  2. cheaplikeme says:

    Similar to the CD option, I came across this information specific to starlings:

    Both visual and auditory scare devices can also be effective. Pie tins or mylar party balloons hung out in the garden can be very effective. There are also a number ofr commercial products available. Scare tape is a strong, laminated metal and plastic material originally designed for use in the space program. It is highly reflective and creates a dazzling pattern of light when in motion. There are various types available including one that resonates in the wind and combines visual and auditory stimuli. Cut into strips of varying lengths and widths, this tape can be suspended from posts, wires, gutters on houses or anywhere else the homeowner wishes to repel the birds. Scare balloons rely on what is called a “supernormal” stimulus – in this case a highly enhanced “eye” that occupies the center of the balloon. Yellow, black and white styles are made though yellow seems to be the most effective. Suspended from a support or sometimes even filled with helium, these balloons move in the slightest wind and are effective.

    Good luck.

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