Birds are a welcome addition to the garden, but if the crows are devouring your corn and the jays are eating your berries, there are ways to deter them and live in harmony.
- Have a party! Scary balloons (vinyl balls with menacing faces) are available at garden centers and on-line. Make your own using shiny Mylar balloons, and secure them to posts around your garden. Tie shiny ribbon (or surveyor's tape) from the balloons for more effect, and don't forget to move them every few days.
- Build a barrier. To keep nibblers at bay, place inverted crates or disposable cups (with the bottoms cut out) over vulnerable seedlings. Chicken wire can also be laid over a seedbed. (As seedlings grow, raise it slightly using boards or bricks.) "I made a cone out of window screen cloth for my tomato plants," says a gardener in Maryland. "When they got too big for the cones, I switched to netting."
- Cast a net. "Netting is the only certain way of deterring birds," says Pippa Greenwood, author of American Horticultural Society Pests & Diseases. To prevent snagging on twigs or thorns, some gardeners construct an inexpensive framework to cover their plants. Use bamboo poles, fence posts, or tall stakes. Drape the netting over the framework, so it reaches the ground, and anchor it to the ground with bent wire for wind protection. If your garden rows aren't too long, consider making a V-shaped “tent” above the row to protect seedlings until they are rooted well enough to resist birds pulling on them.
- Throw some line. Fishing line or black thread, artistically woven over your garden, will stymie bird pests. "Birds don't like wires," says Wagner. "Put posts around your garden and weave the thread or line over your crops."
- Go high-tech. Birdbusters (www.birdbusters.com ) makes a sophisticated screech owl to frighten even the bravest of birds. The owl spins in the wind and has a microchip inside that emits the sound of an attacking hawk.
- Go low-tech. One oldtime cure was to soak a few quarts of dried corn in whiskey, and scatter it over the fields for the crows. They would get corned!
- Remember the benefits. Although some birds can be nuisances, they are also hardworking garden allies, munching away on annoying pests like snails, slugs, and harmful insects. Keep this in mind, and you may feel more generous toward our feathered friends.