bird feeders in the garden

lcdesign(6 SEPA)March 5, 2008

Hi Everybody

I'm wondering if anyone can suggest some low-growing perennials that might be able to survive under birdfeeders. I feed safflower, thistle, suet and yes, black oil sunflower seeds. The hulls have decimated the grass under them. I know about the toxins in them but I thought maybe either a woody perennial or small shrub might be able to survive and I might gain a pre-cleared, automatically mulched bed. Too much to hope for? It's a pretty sunny area . . .



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goodhors(z5 MI)

I have my bird feeders out in a small fenced area in the middle of the yard. Fence is for small dog who will hog down the hulls and seeds of the sunflowers that fall. I don't feed anything except the sunflower seeds. Last year I thought that I would just let the sunflowers sprout if they wanted to. I had a pretty good crop!! Of course these are the commercial sunflowers, so they were all about 4ft high, but had nice flowering.

I removed my bird feeders for summer, use the shepherds hooks for hanging plants in summer. I thought this worked out pretty well, flowers grew well, and actually the grass didn't do to bad either. Birds ate the seed heads off the flowers, so no saving them.

I go thru about 300# of sunflower seed from fall to spring, makes a huge layer of hulls and seeds for mulch in that area. I have nice plantings around the fence, hulls don't seem to get out that far and don't bother those plants. Some tall grass, tree Peonies, ribbon grass, butterfly bushes, as outside plantings, all look quite nice. Other bird attractants are bird baths with a sprayer, flowers they like. We are country, so have lots of natural seeds birds need to eat.

I would not put any sunflower seed feeders in an actual flower area of my garden. I did put up Hummingbird feeders in another garden area, which I also planted with mixed annuals. Some of the flowers around that were tubular for the Hummers in later part of the summer. Agustache is a huge Hummer attractant. I found an annual pink one they would swarm. My mother has great luck with Butterfly bushes, pink and especially yellow, around her deck. Lots of hummers if you sit still out there.

I would not put the sunflower feeders in a growing plant, area of perrenials. I don't want to kill any of my plants.

Another idea might be to use a big pot of flowering annuals, perhaps raised, for color near your feeders. I got a lot of color with big pots of annuals last year. Used the 2ft tall pots, half full of styrofoam, then dirt on top for plants. I made platforms out of some old bricks I had, just stacked them up about 4 layers tall, 3 bricks wide. Made the plants stand out very well, let the vines hang and sway nicely too.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2008 at 5:47PM
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hostaholic2 z 4, MN

I switched to feeding sunflower hearts, no more hulls killing my plants.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2008 at 11:38PM
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Thought you might enjoy this Hummingbird video, and I love the sounds.
I can only have Hummingbird feeders in my yard now. Several years ago my feeders were attracting more mice to my yard, and they found their way to my attic. I had the feeders close to my windows. I guess I could have moved them further back in the yard, though my yard is small.

Here is a link that might be useful: Hummer

    Bookmark   March 6, 2008 at 4:57AM
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nancyd(5/Rochester, NY)

I only use sunflower seed in the back of my yard in a separate feeder for that reason. I never use it in my garden bed. They attract too many birds and squirrels and ground feeders who trample the plants. Other types seeds and suet (as you are using) work out much better. Sometimes you need different stations for different things you are using. Hummingbird feeders are great, but they need a separate location as hummers tend to shy away from other birds. Definitely put one closer to a window so you can watch - they are fascinating. But be sure to change the food a few times a week since the sugar solution spoils quickly.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2008 at 10:54AM
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bean_counter_z4(Zone 4, Rkfd,IL)

I have the same problem. One thing I was thinking about is planting more sunflowers. Not the BOSS kind, but the decorative hybirds, different sizes, different colors.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2008 at 3:09PM
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wyndyacre(z6B SW Ont.)

To deal with the problem of seeds and shells creating a mess in the lawn and garden, I finally created this "bird feeding station" in the middle of my lawn.

I buried several posts in the ground and laid a crescent shaped pad of cement around them. The cement makes it easier to clean up the layer of shells left behind by the birds. Each of the posts hold several different kinds of feeders. I only feed nyjer seed, black oil sunflower seed and suet cakes plus necter for the hummers and orioles in the summer. On the cement leaf, I place fruit pieces and raisins. The bird bath is tipped over for the winter.

Before the cement cured, I inserted some rocks for interest (which in hindsight I wouldn't do again as it makes it more difficult to sweep up seed shells).
Some of the shells land or get blown into the flower bed but that doesn't seem to affect any of the plants. In the bed is two emerald cedars which will eventually grow larger to be a winter windbreak backed by a mock orange shrub. There are also a dwarf butterfly bush 'Nanho Purple', a blue mist shrub 'Worchester Gold', a nest spruce, some 'Woods Blue' asters, a few different sedums including 'Frosty Morn' and a variety of spring bulbs.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2008 at 12:05AM
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bean_counter_z4(Zone 4, Rkfd,IL)

wyndyacre, absolutely love your bird feeding station! Wonderful job making it a decorative part of your lovely garden. I imagine you get a lot of enjoyment from sitting outside and watching the bird activity:)

    Bookmark   March 13, 2008 at 8:52AM
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tepelus(6a SW MI)

Wyndyacre, where'd you get your Bird Girl from? I'm thinking about getting her too, would like to know of a good place to get her from. BTW, I like your feeding station! ;)


    Bookmark   March 13, 2008 at 4:30PM
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claireplymouth z6b coastal MA

There was a thread in the Soil, Compost and Mulch Forum last fall concerning the sunflower seed hulls.

Bird Seed husks for mulch or compost?

Opinions were varied, as is usual for that forum.


    Bookmark   March 13, 2008 at 5:21PM
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wyndyacre(z6B SW Ont.)

Thanks for your comments on my bird feeding station. It is well used in both summer and winter and we enjoy watching the many birds that use it.

Karen...The Savannah Girl statue was bought at a nursery outside Tallahasse, FL about 5 years ago. I have since begun to see her sold at nurseries in this area too but they are not exactly the same and the FL one is much nicer with better details in her face and long skirt.

She is called Savannah Girl because the original statue was a grave marker in a cemetary in Savannah, GA and ended up being a part of the book/movie, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. She is a reminder to me of the fantastic motorcycle trip I did to that state and city, touring the historic parks and gardens and sticking my telepho lens thru the gates of beautiful gardens to snap photos!

One thing to remember, for those of us that live in more northern climates, is that the concrete mixture is different in locals that have milder winters. More northernly climates but a additive in the concrete that makes it stand up to freezing temps better. So when winter comes, I lay Savannah Girl down so that her bowls and any crevices in the concrete won't collect moisture and freeze, causing her to crack.
Occasionally, she gets a dusting of snow before I get a chance to lay her down...

    Bookmark   March 13, 2008 at 8:13PM
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Hi Wyndyacre,

I love your feeding station. What is the name of the pink flowers in front of Savanah Girl?


    Bookmark   March 14, 2008 at 5:44AM
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terrene(5b MA)

Wyndyacre, your bird feeding station is lovely! Do you have a problem with squirrels getting into your feeders?

In general, I don't grow anything under the feeders and the bird baths. This is not because I'm worried about the sunflower hulls killing the plants. It's because I don't want predators (namely cats) to hide out nearby, making it easier for them to jump out and catch a bird.

    Bookmark   March 14, 2008 at 6:52AM
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wyndyacre(z6B SW Ont.)

Betty-the pink flowers are lupins. They have finally decided they like it here and are beginning to self seed every year. I always grow extras in the GH tho.

Terrene-I do have a bit of a squirrel problem ever since my dog passed away. Some of the feeders are squirrel proof and occasionally I mix cayenne pepper into the seeds.
Mostly tho it just provides us with extra exercise to run out the door, yelling and waving our arms madly in the vain hopes of scaring them away! hehe
It's a good thing we live in the country, where the neighbours aren't quite so close to see our silly antics.

My cat does like to wedge herself beneath the emerald cedars and gaze longingly upwards but she's old and toothless and not terribly successful tho I do find the odd fluff of left over feathers in the shed occasionally.

    Bookmark   March 14, 2008 at 9:56AM
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You have a beautiful garden.
I used to have pink lupins too but I lost them.
Now I only have purple lupins. :(

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   March 14, 2008 at 4:40PM
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I loved your hummer video! I watched it a few times, and smiled all the time. How did you catch it? What's the other bird on the feeder hidden in the back.

Also, I can hear what I think is a vireo and and woodthrush in the background. It made my throat tighten because those calls are so beautiful.

    Bookmark   March 14, 2008 at 11:00PM
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Hi Marie,

That was not my hummer video. I came across it on the Hummingbird forum and decided to pass it along, so others could enjoy it. Our hummers should be arriving in mid
April and I am so excited and so are my cats. They sit in the window and enjoy them .

Here is a link that might be useful: Hummer Video

    Bookmark   March 15, 2008 at 4:00PM
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china1940(Z5 MO)

I love your landscaping. Regarding the concrete cresant that you poured around your bird feeders, did you buy the bag concrete or have it professionaly done? That might solve the problem around my feeding station. I was looking for some ideas. I live in zone 5 in mid MO.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2008 at 11:02AM
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SandL(6a KS)

I take all my feeders (save one) down in Spring, putting them back up again in Fall.

Our house's previous owner had a large birdfeeder with a mile high pile of sunflower hulls underneath it. I decided there and then to buy seedless mixes when installing my feeders. The mix I like the most I get at Wal-Mart. It is a mixture of dried berries and assorted nuts. I have absolutely no mess whatsoever

The single feeder I keep up all year hangs just outside my kitchen window. I keep it there so my boys can watch the birds come and go - and so I have something to look at while doing the mundane chore of dishwashing. = P


    Bookmark   April 18, 2008 at 4:17PM
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wyndyacre(z6B SW Ont.)

China1940- I laid the cement pad under my birdfeeders myself, with bagged concrete mix from HD. My DH gave me a cement mixer for my birthday one year (yes it was really for me!) which makes the job a lot easier. That would be a lot of concrete to mix by hand in a wheelbarrow.

I make concrete garden stepping stones and bird baths using large leaves as moulds, such as rubarb leaves.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2008 at 8:22AM
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china1940(Z5 MO)

I thought I asked this, but must not have sent to the forum. Wyndyacre, how do you prepare your ground before you poured your concrete? Gravel, Wire etc. thanks

    Bookmark   May 8, 2008 at 4:55PM
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One thing that helps keep the squirrels out of the bird feeders is to get them their own feeders and use corn. This will greatly reduce their trespasses. The link shows some different options. Some of these feeders can also be very entertaining.

Here is a link that might be useful: Squirrel Feeders

    Bookmark   February 19, 2009 at 8:49AM
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I LOVE your gardens! Beautiful work!! I especially enjoyed seeing your Lupinus and Alliums.

I noticed the large oval-topped urn in your Bird Feeder Area. I have one just like it in my pond. I posted pics in the "Pond" and "Aquatic Plants" forum under the posting:

How's everybody's winter? (Follow-Up #20)

I also posted some pics in the same forum under this posting:

Funky Pond Pics

As you can see, it looks like I may have to find a new urn soon.

Thanks again for sharing your beautiful garden pics!


    Bookmark   February 19, 2009 at 5:54PM
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On the topic of feeding the birds with sunflowers, I have my main feeder in the far back of the yard and I do fill it with black sunflower seeds. Very little will grow back but Virginia Creeper but if the sunflowers do sprout I wait until I have a good crop and then pour vinegar over that whole area. That way the seeds don't grow but if birds/squirrels forage around in the shells on the ground there is no harm done. Works great for me.


    Bookmark   February 20, 2009 at 1:43PM
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terrene(5b MA)

Well since posting last March, I've decided to move the perennials under the black oil sunflower seed (BOSS) feeders this Spring, edge with bricks and spread some nice wood chips. The birds are going through approx. 150 lbs of BOSS this fall and winter in 2 small feeders and they're making a mess with the sunflower hulls. Although the kind with hulls is cheaper and it slows down the little eating machines a bit because they have to crack them open.

The plants (mostly Echinacea) don't grow that well underneath the feeders and would look pretty elsewhere. Plus I've been tromping through this area a lot to fill the feeders and suet log and fuss with the winter-sowing containers.

Last year I let some of the sunflower seeds that sprouted (missed by the birds and squirrels) grow up and will probably do that again this year. The birds loved eating them - especially the Goldfinches and Warblers.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2009 at 4:32PM
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