8 Easy Ways to Landscape Under Bird Feeders
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.
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.
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.
- 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.
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.
More flowers that seem to be unaffected by the allelopathic properties in sunflower seeds include:
- Fairy roses have thorns that discourage 4-footed predators
- Day lilies
- creeping rosemary
- purple coneflowers
- tickseed coreopsis
- mint is a rodent deterrent
- lemon balm
- heuchera (coral bells)
- climbing roses can be trained around the bird feeder pole
- black-eyed Susan
Remember, if anything seems to be misshapen or stunted, it’s the toxin. Try another plant on the list.
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.
5. Plant Low-Growing Shrubs Under the Feeders
- Attach a string to your feeder pole and measure out about three to four 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.
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?
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.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.