A constant denominator in gardening is the presence of birds no matter where a vegetable garden is located. The birds can be any specie from pigeons that are famous for ravaging cabbages, crows or magpies that have a special relationship with sweet corn, and pheasants that dig up potatoes plants to have a go at the tubers.
The damage to unprotected vegetable gardens by birds every planting season is huge. For a home vegetable gardener, birds along with other pests can make life miserable and kill the dream of growing fresh, organic food at home. This why knowing how to keep birds out of your vegetable garden is very important.
However, before we dive into the different ways of keeping these flying menace out of the garden, it must be stated that birds in a garden are not completely bad. The fact is, they are necessary for the garden ecosystem in so many ways that benefit the vegetables.
Among other things, They can reduce or eliminate pests such as snails, insects, and slugs when they feed on them. Their droppings also help to fertilize the soil. And for many of us, apart from being fun to watch, their presence makes a garden environment more rustic and natural with their sounds and incessant activities.
How Can I Keep Birds Out Of My Vegetable Garden?
The question, ‘How can I keep birds out of my vegetable garden?’ must have kept you awake most nights since the local birds turned your garden into their playground with devastating consequences to your crops. And perhaps, you must have tried a few things without any measurable success.
Here, we would reveal the strategies used successfully by some folks. Several methods can be employed either alone or in combination to effectively solve the problem. You just have to pick the one or a combination of a few strategies that work for you.
Scarecrows have been around for generations helping gardeners to scare away birds and other farm pests. They are easy to make or you could simply head to the shop and get one.
However, scarecrows lose their effectiveness after a while as the birds get a measure of the threat posed by them. To retain their effectiveness, you’ll have to constantly move the scarecrow to different locations in the garden and if possible, change its appearance with different clothes. That should keep birds guessing and wondering about the status of the scarecrow as a mobile threat to them.
Use garden nets
A physical barrier between the vegetables and the birds is one of the most effective methods of protecting garden crops. For some people, this is the only certain way of doing it. And on its own, this method could be the only thing needed to prevent birds from getting at your vegetables.
While nets are very effective against birds and other large garden pests, the holes should allow bees and butterfly access to the crops for pollination.
The net can be draped over high wooden stakes, bamboo poles, fence posts, etc., so it reaches the ground. It is then anchored to the ground to protect it against the wind and prevent birds from pulling them up. For best results and durability, nets made of UV-resistant material are recommended.
Also ensure that the net is pulled taut over the supports so animals, including birds, don’t get caught in it. You might have to check your nets daily for trapped wildlife and free them if possible. You need to be prepared for the occasional fatalities to wildlife as a lawsuit of the injuries sustained while caught in the net.
Use chicken wire
A freshly tilled garden can be protected against birds by placing chicken wire on the soil. When the plants sprout above the surface, lift the wire off the ground and support them on stakes to protect the fledgling plants. You’d have to keep adjusting the height of the wire to match the growing plants.
The use of garden fleece to prevent birds from getting to vegetables shows that in most cases, a bit of improvisation is all that is needed to resolve some garden issues.
Garden fleece is used primarily to protect certain crops from frost during severe winter. But draped over stakes like in the use of netting, it can be employed to protect vegetables such as different varieties of cabbage, lettuce, chard, and other garden greens.
The side of the fleece should be weighed down with pegs or stones until it’s time for harvest.
Use scary sounds and noises of predators
Another viable option is to go hi-tech on the birds. Invest in fake bird predators like owls and hawks designed with sound-producing chips. When installed in the garden, they occasionally emit screeching noises mimicking an attacking hawk to scare off birds.
The decoy birds also move in the wind to give an impression of a real-life predator. Like scarecrows, you should constantly change the position of your decoy predators.
Plastic snakes laid on the ground are also known to be effective against certain birds. You might explore this option too.
Use wind chimes
Like scary sounds, the sounds made by wind chimes that humans find soothing can be used to scare birds away if the chimes are placed in the garden. Wind chimes made out of shiny metal metals are more effective as the reflective surfaces of the metals can also frighten them.
For seedlings or rows of seeds in a garden, the use of narrow aluminum screening is an effective way of protecting them from birds.
You can purchase the screen in garden or hardware stores. Simply bend your screen into a ‘U’ shape and place it over your seedlings. Anchor the screen to the ground by pushing heavy wires, small nails, or even sticks through the screening into the soil.
Decoy plants and bird feeder
You might want to provide something that catches the attention of the birds instead of your vegetable garden. You could dedicate a corner of your yard (away from the vegetable garden) to growing plants such as sunflowers to achieve this aim.
If you can’t be bothered by the extra work of planting decoy crops, something as simple as a bird feeder and birdbath world do the trick. The easy source of food and water would take their attention away from your vegetables.
Terror-eyes inflatable balloons
Terror eyes inflatable balloons are very popular garden birds deterrents. Hung on poles around the garden from a string, they are usually large and yellow. The combination of the frightening predator’s eyes’ printed on the balloons and the constant slight movement of the balloons in the wind is very effective in startling birds off.
The balloons are sold already made in stores. But you could easily make your own using a yellow beach ball and carefully drawing the eyes on it using whatever pattern you prefer as a template.
Construct stick jungles
For seedlings and plants that are just sprouting, making a stick jungle by pushing small sticks and even twigs into the ground around the veggies would protect them against the flying preys. Instead of seeing the vegetables, the birds would notice only the sticks around them.
However, this form of protection can make it difficult to weed or harvest the garden. So this method is best utilized for plants that need only temporary protection. If you have young peas, this would be excellent for them.
Pets can be effective
Do you have a dog or cat at home? You could train them to help you chase birds away from your vegetable garden. For dogs especially, chasing birds is fun and can be part of their daily exercise routine.
Cats, though, can pose a few problems besides chasing birds away. For instance, cats are famous for using freshly tilled soil as a temporary litter box.
Fishing line with some shine
Stringing fishing lines across your garden and adding shiny objects on the line is another option at your disposal. The fishing line can be held up by poles throughout the garden.
Before securing the lines to the pole, simply string shiny objects to the to line. Use bits of aluminum foil cut into different sizes and shapes, shinny ribbons, Mylar streamers, old DVDs or CDs, reflective tapes, etc.
The irregular movements, sounds, and reflections caused by these items would chase birds away.
Improvise with what you have
When it comes to protecting your plants against birds, you don’t have to look too far for a solution. Anything that would provide a barrier while at the same time letting water and light get through to the plants would be effective.
For instance, wooden crates, unused laundry baskets, colanders, etc., are some of the barriers you could use. As the plants mature, you could further improvise to accommodate their new heights.
There are many ways to stop birds from getting to your vegetables with many of the methods very simple and inexpensive. Since the killing of birds, apart from being inhumane, is not allowed in most counties, bird control strategies are mostly based on making sure they are not hurt.
The most effective way of protective garden vegetables is by erecting or installing a barrier between the birds and the plants. The most common is via the use of garden nets. Garden fleece and stick jungles are also effective as barriers
Other methods are designed to scare them off with lights, sounds, and motion using objects such as scarecrows, windchimes, plastic predators, etc. But with a little bit of creativity and thought, a gardener can improvise vegetable protectors with many common household and farm items; these are effective as long as the birds can’t get access to the plants.