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Chase Away Garden-Hungry Birds

Each species has a different trick

Crows, morning doves, pigeons and black birds love to pluck sprouting seeds of corn, snap beans and lima beans in the garden. Robins love to eat strawberries, while mocking birds and brown thrush love to eat blueberries as they ripen. Birds can also do a great deal of damage to maturing sweet corn. They will rip away the husks and silk and peck out the kernels from the tops of the ears.
    How to deter them?
    Scarecrows are fun to look at but about useless. Since the scarecrow is stationary, birds will soon realize that it makes a good perch. If you make your scarecrow look like a real person, there is some possibility that passers-by will enter your garden for a closer look, which will in turn scare the birds away.

Mow Down Your Strawberries

  Now that the strawberry picking season is over, take the lawnmower and mow down the strawberry plants. Place a cover over the exhaust of the mower and you can pulverize the strawberry plant tops into mulch. If your strawberry bed is more than two years old, rototill either the middle or each side of the bed. Partial tilling will encourage the development of vigorously growing daughter plants that will produce bigger berries next year. Generally strawberry beds will be productive for about four years, but you can increase their longevity by rototilling under at least half of the older plants each year.

    Birds have one common fear: snakes. To prevent birds from eating sprouting seeds of corn, snap beans or lima beans, place a five- to six-foot length of black plastic pipe or garden hose between the seeded rows. Make it look more like a snake by smearing on Vaseline or automotive grease to make it shiny. If you are fond of owls, placing a life-sized statue of an owl in the middle of the garden will be equally effective.
    Robins can be discouraged from eating strawberries by tying bright strips of plastic tape to string stretched over the strawberry beds at two- to three-foot intervals. Add the ties every 10 inches or so. Alternating the colorful plastic ties with strips of aluminum foil increases the effectiveness. The slightest breeze will keep the ties moving over the strawberry plants.
    Bird netting is the only solution to keep birds from eating blueberries, raspberries and blackberries. To be effective, the netting should be tied to the ground. To eliminate the need for pegging it, I surround my blueberry plantings with an 18-inch-tall fence of pullet wire. I tie the bird netting to the pullet wire and bury the wire’s bottom edge. You must use pullet wire and not regular chicken wire, as the holes in the chicken wire will permit mocking birds and brown thrush to enter.
    Bird netting must be removed in the fall. Falling leaves and snow will collect on the netting unless it is removed and stored for use next year.
    To facilitate rolling and unrolling bird netting, tie a stout piece of rope across one end. The rope helps you roll and unroll netting over the frame that will support it.

Ask Dr. Gouin your questions at [email protected]. All questions will appear in Bay Weekly. Please include your name and address.