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How to Keep Birds Out of Your Vegetable Garden

Chet is a registered landscape architect with over 25 years of experience designing everything from private patios to public parks.

A pinwheel as a bird repellent

A pinwheel as a bird repellent

Vegetable gardeners face a variety of challenges in their quest to grow healthy, tasty food. Sometimes it seems like there is a conspiracy between the weather, diseases, insects and mammals to prevent the crops from making it to harvest time. To keep things interesting, the challenges vary from year to year. This year, as tomatoes began to ripen in our home garden, new vegetable predators arrived on the scene - birds. Initially they seemed to prefer just-ripe tomatoes. The tomatoes that we were going to give “one more day” would, on the day of their harvest, have bites taken out of them. When we arrived at the garden, vegetable basket in hand, several birds would take flight. As we began to harvest earlier in the ripening process, the birds began to select less-ripe tomatoes. This continued for about a month.

I was wondering what would be a safe and effective bird repellent. Then I remembered we already had an effective way to keep birds away.

The fierce, mean, scary owl says "Birds out of garden!"

The fierce, mean, scary owl says "Birds out of garden!"

Small Birds Are Scared of Owls

Years ago, we had a problem with birds flying around the upper-story windows in our house. Early in the mornings a cardinal would see his reflection and continually peck and tap on the glass. It was particularly annoying on Saturday and Sunday mornings. We eventually bought a life-size plastic owl and placed him just inside the window. The cardinal left, never to return.

It was time to move the owl to the garden.

The owl has a hole in his plastic base. I tied a wood stake to the top of one of our do-it-yourself tomato cages and placed the owl on the stake. (Any kind of wood dowel or stick would work as well as the stake.) It has been a full month. We have had no bites in our tomatoes since the owl moved to his garden home.

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Pinwheels help keep birds away

Pinwheels help keep birds away


Motion and movement are also effective ways to keep birds away. However, most of us don’t have the time or inclination to stand in the garden and wave our arms whenever a bird approaches. Fortunately, there is an easier solution. Pinwheels are inexpensive and readily available in the toy or party section of your local big-box department store. Buy a half dozen or so. We attach ours to tomato cages, but wood stakes or dowels can also be used. Clothespins or duct tape are the easiest way to fasten the pinwheels to their vertical supports. Orienting the pinwheels in different directions or angles will help to keep them moving when the wind changes directions.

Though it does not take much breeze to get the pinwheels spinning, there are times when they won’t be moving at all. Still, we have found that using pinwheels to scare birds away from the garden works very well.

Pinwheels and owls are both visual bird repellents; inexpensive and easy ways to keep birds away. If only they worked for squash bugs, aphids and leaf-footed bugs.

Hopefully, these ideas will help you keep birds out of your garden.

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