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8 Easy Ways to Landscape Under Bird Feeders

Updated on March 31, 2016
grandmapearl profile image

At a very young age Connie learned from her Grandma Pearl to observe and love backyard birds. She stills feeds and studies them everyday.

Bird Buffet and Flower Gardens.
Bird Buffet and Flower Gardens. | Source

Sunflowers Contain a Natural Plant Toxin

Did you know that sunflower seed hulls contain a toxin that affects other plants? It can keep them from sprouting and developing a root system. Another plant that does this is the black walnut tree, and there are others as well. It’s a survival mechanism set up within the plant itself, otherwise known as allelopathy.

This chemical warfare ensures the plant has enough room to develop without the neighbors trying to muscle in on its territory; and that it has exclusive access to the nutrients it needs to grow strong.

8 Solutions for the Bare Spot Under Your Bird Feeders


So if nothing seems to grow under your bird feeders; or some plants nearby manage to sprout, but are underdeveloped and have yellowing leaves, here are some solutions:

1. Buy No-Mess Blend Birdseed Mix

They are more expensive, but there is no waste. The seed hulls have been removed, and there are no fillers like grass and oat seeds to sprout. What price can you put on significantly reducing the chance of disease-born organisms from accumulations under the feeders? We need to keep our birds safe and healthy.

seed catcher tray/squirrel baffle
seed catcher tray/squirrel baffle | Source

2. Use a Seed Tray

Use a tray that catches seeds and hulls before they hit the ground. This tray attaches to the bird feeder pole with a clamp that is included.

Birds can easily access the seeds that fall into this tray, but the squirrels don't seem to be able to climb over the extra large baffle.

Drainage holes keep seeds from becoming waterlogged and moldy. Seed hulls should be cleaned out and discarded regularly.

Chocolate sunflower.
Chocolate sunflower. | Source

3. Experiment with Different Plants

Not everything is affected by the toxin in sunflower seeds; in particular, sunflowers!

There’s a huge variety of sunflowers from which to choose, including some fairly new varieties that have a beautiful deep red color. All of them produce seed heads that your songbirds will enjoy when they have ripened in late summer to early fall.

Clean up old bird seed and hulls from under bird feeders to prevent the growth of mold and disease-carrying organisms.
Clean up old bird seed and hulls from under bird feeders to prevent the growth of mold and disease-carrying organisms. | Source
  • Use a leaf vacuum or rake to get rid of all the old seed hulls on a regular basis. A build up of seeds and hulls on the ground can cause mold to grow; and accumulations of bird droppings can produce disease organisms that adversely affect birds’ health.
  • Start with a good soil mix that includes organic compost.

Mother-of-Thyme is a tough herbal ground cover.
Mother-of-Thyme is a tough herbal ground cover. | Source

I have had good luck with lamium, Mother-of-Thyme, and vinca vine (also known as periwinkle or creeping myrtle), which are ground covers. I have had moderate success with wild geraniums, which are favorites of the deer.

Vinca, also known as periwinkle and creeping myrtle, is a ground cover that works well in difficult places like under bird feeders.
Vinca, also known as periwinkle and creeping myrtle, is a ground cover that works well in difficult places like under bird feeders. | Source
Daylilies don't mind the sunflower seed hulls.
Daylilies don't mind the sunflower seed hulls. | Source
Tickseed Coreopsis
Tickseed Coreopsis | Source
Beautiful Lantana.
Beautiful Lantana. | Source

More flowers that seem to be unaffected by the allelopathic properties in sunflower seeds:

  • Fairy roses have thorns that discourage 4-footed predators
  • Day lilies
  • dianthus
  • liriope
  • creeping rosemary
  • purple coneflowers
  • tickseed coreopsis
  • mint is a rodent deterrent
  • cotoneaster
  • lemon balm
  • heuchera (coral bells)
  • iris
  • lupines
  • dahlias
  • lantana
  • climbing roses can be trained around the bird feeder pole
  • black-eyed Susan
  • clematis

Remember, if anything seems to be misshapen or stunted, it’s the toxin. Try another plant on the list.

Wildflowers provide lots of seeds for overwintering birds.
Wildflowers provide lots of seeds for overwintering birds. | Source

4. Plant a Wildflower Garden

Ground foraging birds can easily pick through the wildflower stalks for fallen seeds. Lots of birds are attracted by wildflower seeds in the fall and wintertime, too. Wildflowers are tough and will reseed themselves. Leave the dead heads to provide additional nourishment for overwintering birds.

Holly shrubs are good for planting near bird feeders.
Holly shrubs are good for planting near bird feeders. | Source

5. Plant Low-Growing Shrubs Under the Feeders

  • Attach a string to your feeder pole and measure out about 3 to 4 feet.
  • Mark the perimeter with a hose.
  • Plant boxwood or holly shrubs.

These shrubs can take a lot of abuse from wildlife; but note that if you have visiting deer, they will nibble on your holly plants all winter long. I was worried one year when deer had done a number on my holly bushes, However, that spring the shrubs grew larger and spread out. They were better for having been browsed upon!

If you have predators that could hide under the shrubs and pounce on your birds, this is not the solution for you.

Slate-Colored Juncos enjoy foraging on the ground.
Slate-Colored Juncos enjoy foraging on the ground. | Source
American Tree Sparrows are frequent visitors under my bird feeders.
American Tree Sparrows are frequent visitors under my bird feeders. | Source

6. Just Plant the Perimeter Leaving the Bare Patch in the Middle.

I have found that by raking up or vacuuming the hulls regularly I can maintain the area for the ground-feeding birds like juncos, cardinals, sparrows and finches. In this case, bare ground can be a good thing.

Low-growing shrubs or mass plantings of sun-loving peonies and hydrangeas around the bare spot would be very pretty, while hiding the less-than-beautiful plain ground beyond.

Ensure you make a pathway for easy access to fill the bird feeders. This solution would provide extra cover from rain and snow, as well as perches from which your birds could dine.

Keep in mind that predators can use this to their advantage when hunting the ground-feeding birds. If neighborhood or feral cats patrol your yard, it would not be wise to plant anything under which they might hide and pounce on unsuspecting birds.

7. If You Are Handy, Build a Concrete Birdfeeder ‘Patio’

  • Make a circular or square form on the ground under your birdfeeders into which you can pour concrete; this makes it a lot easier to clean up the seed hulls with a rake or leaf vacuum.
  • For a decorative touch you can imbed smooth river stones into the concrete just before it sets up.
  • Plant annuals around the outside of the bird ’patio’, or add containers of plants.
  • Make a stone pathway leading to the feeder, and line it with pots of bird-friendly plants.

8. Make a Flagstone Patio

You can plant Irish moss or Mother-of-Thyme in between the stones.

  • Mark out a 3’ to 4’ diameter circle under the bird feeder.
  • Dig down 3” to 4” depending upon the thickness of your stones, and replace the dirt with paving sand on which to lay your stones.
  • Tamp the paving sand to compact it.
  • Then add your stones. Use a level to insure your stones won’t ‘trip you up‘.
  • Pour organic soil between the stones and plant your moss or thyme.
  • Water thoroughly and often.

Cleaning up the area will be easy using a broom or leaf vacuum.

Do You Have a Bare Spot Under Your Bird Feeders?

See results

Feeding birds is satisfying and fun. Now you have lots of solutions from which to choose to keep your birds happy, and your bird feeding area as beautiful as the rest of your yard.

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    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      From your mouth to our ears and then making it a reality. Pearl, you know your stuff and I am your student. Thank you for more great information. Our backyard friends in Olympia thank you.

      Have a great weekend!

      bill

    • grandmapearl profile image
      Author

      Connie Smith 4 years ago from Southern Tier New York State

      Billy, you are first to comment again! I am so grateful for your support and friendship. I know that I can always count on you, my friend!

      Today we have finally reached a whopping 60 degrees. It seems that it has been interminably slow to warm up this spring. I am enjoying this sunshiney day though. I hope you have a wonderful weekend ;) Pearl

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 4 years ago from New York

      Great ideas and suggestions. We have had weird plants grow from the birdseed...I like your suggestions...not sure which ones to try first. Thanks for all the help. Enjoy the rest of your weekend.

      Voted up, useful, and interesting.

    • galine profile image

      galine 4 years ago from Chicago

      Very good article, real interesting. Have to many cats around to have bird feeder but know people who do and will tell them to read this article.

    • Rosie writes profile image

      Rosie writes 4 years ago from Virginia

      Wonderful and informative hub. I too love to feed the birds and I am lucky to see all kinds of them. The hummingbirds have made their first appearance this week - it is a thrill. You have some great ideas that I will be passing on to friends and family. Voted up and useful.

    • shiningirisheyes profile image

      Shining Irish Eyes 4 years ago from Upstate, New York

      Wow - Pearl - I ad no idea some seeds gave off a toxin harmful to other plants. Excellent, thorough and informative article!

      Enjoy the beautiful day!

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 4 years ago from Central Florida

      Pearl, I don't have any bird feeders in my yard because I have an outside cat. However, this information is very useful. I was unaware of the toxic effect Sunflowers have on plants. That's good to know!

    • Angelo52 profile image

      Angelo52 4 years ago from Central Florida

      Great ideas for the bird feeder bare spots. Thumbs up and shared.

    • grandmapearl profile image
      Author

      Connie Smith 4 years ago from Southern Tier New York State

      It's great to see you Angelo! Thank you so much for the visit, and for the Votes and Share. They are very much appreciated, my friend;) Pearl

    • grandmapearl profile image
      Author

      Connie Smith 4 years ago from Southern Tier New York State

      bravewarrior, so glad to see you on this beautiful sunshiney day! Yes, it's best to plant sunflowers in their own garden so they don't feel threatened! But they do provide excellent food for the birds. Thanks so much for stopping by; I'm always pleased to see you and to read your comments ;) Pearl

    • grandmapearl profile image
      Author

      Connie Smith 4 years ago from Southern Tier New York State

      Hey Irish! I'm pleased you paid me a visit, neighbor! Sunflowers aren't the only plant that has this chemical mechanism built in. You know when the gypsy moth invasion was so bad several years ago, the maples actually used a chemical signal to warn the trees nearby. Those trees in turn created a special chemical to help repel the gypsy moths the following year! Nature is truly amazing.

      I'm heading outside soon to plant that salvia I bought yesterday. Can't waste all this good NYS sunshine!

      Take care ;) Pearl

    • grandmapearl profile image
      Author

      Connie Smith 4 years ago from Southern Tier New York State

      Hi Rosie! I'm so glad to see you, and to hear that the hummers are on their way to my area very soon. I hung a nectar feeder out 2 days ago in anticipation of the ruby-throats' arrival.

      Thank you so much for your supportive comments, and your votes. They are very much appreciated. Have a lovely hummer-filled day ;) Pearl

    • grandmapearl profile image
      Author

      Connie Smith 4 years ago from Southern Tier New York State

      Hello galine! You are very wise not to feed birds when you have so many cats that would love to make a meal of them! I do appreciate your passing this article on to those who do feed birds. Thank you so much for the visit and the comments ;) Pearl

    • grandmapearl profile image
      Author

      Connie Smith 4 years ago from Southern Tier New York State

      Hi Mary! I know, there are so many solutions that I'm not sure which one I'm going to try on my new birdfeeder area. I've always wanted a setup right in front of the house so I can see my birds more easily in the wintertime. I think I may try the flagstone patio; that looks like a fun project.

      Thanks as always for your supportive comments, and the votes. They are very much appreciated, as are you! Take care my friend ;) Pearl

    • profile image

      Vickiw 4 years ago

      Love these ideas. What a great Hub! I am a bird watcher, and yes, they do make quite a mess. My landscape helpers here are the towhees, juncoes and California quail that come by to keep the area under the bird feeders clear! You have some great ideas. It is really important not to disguise this area too much, because as you pointed out, cats love to stalk their prey from a handy concealment!

    • Happyboomernurse profile image

      Gail Sobotkin 4 years ago from South Carolina

      My husband and I did hang a birdfeeder a few months ago and didn't know how to solve the problem of the bare patch that developed underneath it, nor did we know it could cause mold. Thanks for sharing these helpful solutions. Voted up across the board except for funny.

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Connie, I always found the bird feeding area to be more beautiful than the rest of the yard, due to the large amount of birds.

    • grandmapearl profile image
      Author

      Connie Smith 4 years ago from Southern Tier New York State

      Hi Vickiw! So nice to see you and read your lovely comments. I used to see towhees and quail quite often. But they have not been around in several years. I'm glad you have helpers at your feeders!

      Thank you for your support; as always it is very much appreciated ;) Pearl

    • grandmapearl profile image
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      Connie Smith 4 years ago from Southern Tier New York State

      Happyboomernurse, I'm pleased you found this article helpful and informative. It's amazing how plants have evolved to defend themselves, isn't it? Survival of the fittest for sure. I appreciate your supportive comments and votes. They are very much appreciated ;) Pearl

    • grandmapearl profile image
      Author

      Connie Smith 4 years ago from Southern Tier New York State

      Deb, so true. The birds provide tons of beauty; and I never tire of watching them work at the seeds under the feeders. Lately I have had many robins and American tree sparrows as well as juncos looking for insects among those fallen birdseeds. Lots of fun to see them do their thing!

      Connie

    • profile image

      ignugent17 4 years ago

      I am glad you share your ideas on bare spot under the bird feeders. It is really very useful. Thank you very much. :-)

    • grandmapearl profile image
      Author

      Connie Smith 4 years ago from Southern Tier New York State

      ignugent, I'm very happy you found this article helpful. You are very welcome! Thank you for stopping by and commenting. I do appreciate it ;) Pearl

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 4 years ago from Wales

      Another wonderful gem Pearl and I am so glad to be back with you again. am hoping that this time I shall have enough time to juggle both hubs and writing course.

      I vote up and share all around,

      Enjoy your weekend and lots of love.

      Eddy.

    • Lisa Luv profile image

      Lisa J Warner 4 years ago from Conneticut, USA

      Wow - wonderful ideas. I love it! Voted up and shared.

    • grandmapearl profile image
      Author

      Connie Smith 4 years ago from Southern Tier New York State

      Thank you so much Lisa Luv! I'm glad you enjoyed reading this article and liked my ideas for landscaping under bird feeders. Thanks also for your vote and shares; they are very much appreciated ;)

      Pearl

    • grandmapearl profile image
      Author

      Connie Smith 4 years ago from Southern Tier New York State

      Dear Eddy, I'm so glad you stopped by to see me! I know what you mean about juggling things; and then life happens, too! So much to do and so little time always. Thanks as ever for your kind words and votes and shares. You are a great source of inspiration to me, my friend. Love to you as well ;) Pearl

    • Sharkye11 profile image

      Jayme Kinsey 4 years ago from Oklahoma

      Very interesting. I've never noticed any difference in the flowers under the birdfeeders. Maybe because I tend to use wildflowers in those areas already? I did that so that birds, bees and butterflies (the three B's!) could all enjoy the same feeding area. I guess I was doing the right thing and didn't even know it! I do however notice sunflowers sprouting among the other plants from time to time. I always transplant them to another part of the garden where they can be admired without blcking the view of the wildlife.

      Loved reading this! Voting up!

    • grandmapearl profile image
      Author

      Connie Smith 3 years ago from Southern Tier New York State

      Sharkye11, I'm so glad you enjoyed this article. Yes, you are definitely doing the right thing in planting wildflowers for the 3 b's to enjoy! You instinctively know that native plants will attract all kinds of beneficial insects and birds; and will have developed their own survival mechanisms.

      By the way, I do the same thing when sunflower seeds sprout--I take them to a sunny place in the garden where they can do their own thing. I'm sure that you have loads of sunflowers in the late summer for your 3 b's to enjoy as well. I like your 3 b's--that's a very cool way to describe them!

      I enjoyed reading your comments very much, and I'm so glad you stopped by! Stay safe in Oklahoma ;) Pearl

    • sgbrown profile image

      Sheila Brown 3 years ago from Southern Oklahoma

      Great information, Grandma Pearl! My hubby and I just had a conversation about the "mess" under the bird feeder the other day. The seeds that the birds have dropped have sprouted and I now have at least 20 sunflowers blooming under the bird feeder. The problem is that I have St. Augustine grass growing there at I can't mow it! the grass is getting so tall it really looks shaggy, but the sunflowers are so pretty and the butterflies love them! I may have to remove the grass and turn that area into a flower bed! :)

    • grandmapearl profile image
      Author

      Connie Smith 3 years ago from Southern Tier New York State

      That's right, sgbrown, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em! I think a sunflower bed under your feeders would be a great idea. And it would save you some headaches. I have had the same problem in the past, so I can sympathize with your dilemma.

      I'm glad you enjoyed this article, and it was so good to see you ;) Pearl

    • pagesvoice profile image

      Dennis L. Page 3 years ago from New York/Pennsylvania border

      Voted up and ++++. It is always a pleasure to read your articles. We share a love of nature and our gardens. Although I was aware of the black walnut tree being toxic to surrounding plants, I never knew the same holds true for the sunflower.

      I do have one bare spot under my maple tree where I hang two feeders. I'm not really troubled by the spot because it serves as an easy place to gather seeds for the morning doves and the chipmunks. I just made up a mixture of seed totaling over 100 pounds. My wife likes to tease by saying I'm responsible for lazy birds. I just smile as I go about filling more feeders.

    • grandmapearl profile image
      Author

      Connie Smith 3 years ago from Southern Tier New York State

      pagesvoice, I'm so glad you stopped by! And thank you so much for your votes. We do share the love of birds and nature. I had to nod my head when I read your comment about your wife teasing you. My husband bugs me about how much I feed the birds. Like you, I just keep the bird seed coming! After all, right now they are busy showing their youngsters where the feeders are, and how to land on them successfully! And when the young ones flutter their wings, the parents dutifully feed them seeds from the bird feeders.

      I solved my issue with the empty bird seed hulls under the feeder by adding that large squirrel guard/seed catcher tray. Now my cardinals and juncos and other ground feeders eat from that.

      There are still lots of seeds that fall from the other feeders. You should see all the squirrels and chipmunks that make short work of them!

      Thanks for the visit, and the lovely comments my friend ;) Pearl

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

      Great information. I especially appreciate the list of plants. We are redesigning our backyard bird area since a large dead tree must come down, and this will definitely help.

    • grandmapearl profile image
      Author

      Connie Smith 3 years ago from Southern Tier New York State

      FlourishAnyway, I am pleased to know that you are making sure the birds are accommodated, I know that you share my love of nature and all it has to offer us. Good luck with your new bird area; and thank you so much for the visit. It's always a pleasure to hear from you ;) Pearl

    • profile image

      Dawn, Bloomington, IL 3 years ago

      Interesting and very informative. Thanks for sharing your ideas and expertise!

    • grandmapearl profile image
      Author

      Connie Smith 3 years ago from Southern Tier New York State

      Hi Dawn! I'm very pleased you found this article useful. Thanks so much for stopping by, and for your comments. They are very much appreciated. Have a wonderful day ;) Pearl

    • OldRoses profile image

      Caren White 3 years ago from Franklin Park, NJ

      I never thought about doing something with the bare spot under my feeders. What a great idea! I just throw seed under the feeders for the groundfeeding birds. As you recommend, I do clean up regularly. Great hub!

    • grandmapearl profile image
      Author

      Connie Smith 3 years ago from Southern Tier New York State

      Old Roses, I too love to feed the groundfeeding birds, so I am planning on putting in holly shrubs to shield the bare spot from view. That way the birds can use the bushes for perching, shelter and food!

      Thanks so much for stopping by ;) Pearl

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      Teresa 8 months ago

      My birdfeeders (four feeders hung from a tree-like structure we made out of four by fours) are right into but on the edge of our woods. I could not keep the poison ivy and honeysuckle out fast enough to make way to fill feeders. Right now I have weed fabric down but that can only be a temporary solution. What about a very low decking for underneath the feeder "tree" and a little room for my seed storage trunk? I figure I could sweep and clean decking often with hose at least in the winter. Any feedback? I am afraid stone/concrete will not be very level at least not for long due to the multi tree roots.

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