How Do I Stop Birds From Eating the Garden Seeds I Sow?

Protective screen will stop birds from eating the garden seeds.

“How do I stop birds from eating the garden seeds? We have 16 raised beds in our community garden, and we are trying to use 1-2 of them to grow from seeds only. Our problem is that birds keep picking at the seeds almost as soon as we sow the seeds. Do you have any suggestions for covering the beds or any other method to keep the birds away? We are sowing bush and pole beans, peas, radish, and squash seeds, among others.” Question from Jenifer of St. Petersburg, Florida

Answer: Birds not only consume certain vegetable seeds, but some, like starlings, also like to snip back tender new seedlings. Some vegetables you list must be directly sown in the ground, but others are better started in pots and planted as plants, which can save some headaches.

Stop Birds From Eating the Garden Seeds

Cucumbers, melons, pumpkins, squash, and zucchini fare better if they are started in 4-inch pots and then planted after they have put forth several sets of leaves. They are quick to germinate and grow fast, so it is a trouble-free effort. Just be sure to place the seeded pots in a sunny spot protected from birds and keep the soil moist.  Other vegetables, like tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, lettuce, kale, and cabbages, grow best if they are started indoors and planted as strong plant starts. (Please click here to learn how to grow tomatoes from seed, and please click here for our favorite lettuces and how to grow them.) Seeds that are best planted in the ground are another story.

Beans, beets, carrots, corn, peas, turnips, and radishes are just a few seeds that are best sown directly in fertile ground. There are a couple of ways to keep birds from eating your seeds. Large-seeded plants, like beans and peas, can be planted 1 to 2 inches down in the soil (Click here to watch a video about our favorite beans and how to grow them.) Beets, carrots, and radishes should be planted closer to the soil surface. I always cover my newly sown seeds with a layer of Black Gold Garden Compost Blend to encourage faster germination. Here are steps to keep marauding birds from eating the garden seeds you sow.

  1. Cover the raised beds with floating row covers or insect (and bird) barriers until they have germinated. Sheer row covers allow sunlight through but keep birds and pests from reaching the beds. Just be sure the seeded rows are well covered until seedlings germinate and really take off. In this scenario, it may pay to lay down drip hose along the rows, so you don’t have to worry about watering from above. I prefer row barriers over bird netting because they are more effective, and birds cannot get trapped in the fabric.
  2. Bird deterrents come in all forms and Bird B Gone sells loads of products to scare birds away, from flashing stakes to scare balloons and hawk or owl decoys. Take your pick. These do work but not as consistently as well-placed barrier covers.

In my opinion, row covers are your best option, and you can use them year after year. One final note: peas and radishes are cool-season crops that grow poorly in heat. They are best grown in fall and winter in Florida.

I hope these solutions help. Have a great vegetable gardening season!

Jessie Keith

Black Gold Horticulturist