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Keeping birds out of your garden

Art of Homegrown Happiness

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Birds bring many wonderful attributes in our yards and landscapes but can also cause issues in our gardens by eating fruit or picking seeds out of the ground.

Thankfully, there are ways to help drive them off, and prevent them from taking up residence where their presence is detrimental.

The first way to prevent them from digging up seeds, damaging seedlings, or eating fruit is to string some clear fishing line above your row of seedlings, or above your strawberry beds. You will want the lines taut, and not slack otherwise birds can become entangled in the line. What happens is the birds cannot see the clear fishing line when they are swooping in to eat the fruit or land, and when they bump into the unseen fishing line it unnerves them and can scare them away. This has proven to work well, as birds never really learn where the line is as they are flying around the garden.

This leads to one of the other challenges of trying to keep birds out of a garden area.

It’s that birds learn what deterrents are actually real and what are fake, and therefore realize that they are a fake threat. The solution to them “learning” that deterrents are fake is to constantly move or change them. Sometimes on a daily basis to help ensure effectiveness. Examples of natural-looking deterrents would be fake owls, and or fake snakes that can be used to help keep birds at bay. They both need to be moved often, especially for a fake snake, and at least every other day for an owl.

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Fake snakes used in gardens to deter birds look very lifelike, almost to the point that a person wouldn’t realize it was plastic unless you remembered you had bought it and put it there. (I say this because more than one gardener has been scared to death because of how realistic these snakes can look.)

Another method is to create a colorful moving garden area filled with animated objects that either move by themselves or with the wind. Tying helium balloons to the ground, hanging sparkling or twisting garden ornaments above desirable plants, and otherwise making the garden a “spooky” place for birds can help to reduce their damage. Once again the challenge is birds can become accustomed to the colors, moving objects, and reflecting sunlight, so it is critical to change and move these objects often to prevent them from just ignoring them.

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Another excellent proven deterrent is bird netting. Normally made out of plastic, and lightweight, this mesh is laid over the tops of strawberry patches, and over any fruit-bearing tree or shrub that is being raided by unwanted birds. Chicken wire cages that act as a cover can be constructed for particular plants to keep birds out, but they are far more expensive.

An alternative is noise emitting devices that are triggered by motion sensors. They can emit the sound of an owl or a hawk screeching, thereby frightening away small birds, which tend to do most of the damage. As with any of the frightening devices, if birds get used to them, they lose their effectiveness.

Another good tool to manage birds is a motion sensor sprinkler, which works by spraying birds or animals with water when they fly into a garden area. Most birds don’t particularly like getting sprayed with water, but there are some that ignore it and keep eating, so it can be hit or miss. In conclusion, changing locations, changing bird sounds being emitted, and changing devices or things that scare them will hopefully keep them driven off, and allow you to enjoy the fruits of your labors.

Lance Ellis can be reached at (208) 624-3102 for further questions.

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