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Best Ways to Protect Your Plants from Birds

What’s more annoying than preparing your planting beds and carefully adding seedlings or transplants, only to have birds swoop down and peck at everything? Flying creatures like blackbirds, grackles, crows, and starlings all have a bad and well-earned reputation amongst gardeners. But here’s the complicating factor — you don’t want to harm the birds, you just want them to leave your dang tomatoes alone, right?

After all, the same birds that damage your garden are the very same ones that eat all the pesky bugs that also damage your garden. So, let’s look at some ways to protect your plants from these high flyers.

Protect veggies from birds

5 Tips to Protect Your Plants

Bird netting. This is the most effective strategy, but it can also be messy. Raise your hand if you’ve ever covered your veggies with bird netting, only to have it become a tangled mess? Yep, join the club. So plan to use some inexpensive PVC pipe to create a couple of hoops from one side of your bed to the other, then drape bird netting over that. Secure with wire or landscape pins into the soil, and carefully lift up one side when it’s time to harvest. I know, it’s a bit of a hassle, but at least you’ll have produce to harvest.

Mylar balloons. Mylar balloons or reflective surveyor’s tape do the same thing — create a shiny, reflective flash that birds hate. Ever heard of hanging old CDs overhead as well? That’s the same concept. To keep this one effective, plan to move the balloons or tape around every few days to confuse the birds.

Covers. Covers are great for small seedlings (under 8”), then as the plants get bigger you can switch to one of these other suggestions. Use upside-down crates or disposable cups with the bottoms cut out to temporarily cover tender seedlings and protect them. They’ll still get sun and air circulation.

High-tech fake owls. While I’ve not tried this one myself, I know plenty of other gardeners who have. These fake owls move (spin, actually) and emit sounds that scare off potential feathered pests. As with the mylar balloons, plan to move the fake owl around the garden to keep the birds on their toes.

Fishing line. Nobody really knows why this one works, but it does. Got a row of seedlings? Drive a stake into each end of the row, then string 20-lb or greater fishing line monofilament) from one stake to the other, right above the row of plants. There is something about this fishing line that birds can’t stand, and it keeps them from coming near your wee veggies for their afternoon snack.

Tip: If you have bird feeders, make sure you place them well away from your edible garden. You don’t want to attract them with an appetizer only to have them realize there’s a full entrée nearby.

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Protect from high flyers
Bird landing on plant with text, "High fliers, ortectin your garden. 5 tips to protect your plants form high flyers."

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  1. Do you have any suggestions on how to keep my deer herd from eating the pre flowering buds on Sunflowers? Made a sample run to see if I could grow the Black Oil Sunflower seeds I’ve been feeding both the birds and my squirrels. They were FANTASTIC!…, Until one of my Does decided to cut to the chase and ate ALL of the pre blooming buds! Nothing but bare stems left!

    • Hi Leeann, fencing is the best option if you can do it. When you’re dealing with deer, start at 6′ and go up from there. For some other options, some people grow plants that deer don’t like around their garden either because of smell, they’re prickly or they don’t like the taste, some have used motion-activated sprinklers to spook the deer, or deer repellant sprays.

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