I looked out my window the other day at my garden and saw my sunflower plants waving back and forth. My first thought was that is odd, why are they moving like that? I knew we had deer problems but I never dreamed that the squirrels eating sunflower plants would be a problem! But sure enough there was a squirrel at the top of one of my beautiful sunflowers trying to eat as many seeds as he could. He also seemed to be going after the newly budded flowers. Maybe squirrels consider the small newly formed flowers a delicacy.
These are not the huge sunflowers. They are the smaller ones called Autumn Beauty. I plant them for the birds to eat the seeds. And believe me, when they are blooming the American Goldfinches are very busy out there!
Squirrels Eating Sunflower Plants-More Than One Problem
Ok… so, I thought less flowers, less seeds for the birds and less beauty for us! I could live with that. But then I see the squirrel at the very top of one of the plants. The plants are top heavy anyway because the flowers are heavy. And all of a sudden the squirrel and the sunflower plant are on the ground. The sunflower stalk actually broke a little bit. It didn’t fully crack in half but it was cracked. Other sunflowers were leaning over, but none had broken. And there were at least 10 beautiful flowers at the top all growing in different stages. I did not want to lose this beautiful plant.
Sunflowers Bring Pollinators and Beautiful Birds
The American Goldfinches love eating these sunflowers. So I decided I would try to save this beautiful sunflower plant with lots of flowers growing at the top of it. Autumn Beauty sunflowers come in lots of colors, yellow as you can see in the squirrel picture! See the picture on the left of a goldfinch eating a burnt orange sunflower from this seed packet. You can see why I would like to save this plant because of all these beautiful bird visitors! If you would like to order these seeds click on the link below. See my next post for info on how I saved this sunflower plant. Here is a youtube video on how to protect your sunflower.
Planting blueberries will give you blueberries for years to come. Here are a few tips that I have learned about for healthy blueberries. A real plus for blueberries is that they are native plants. Of course, after you read my previous post about protect blueberries from birds, you will understand why they are native plants. Native plants feed the local wildlife whether they are insects, birds or small animals. Blueberries definitely feed the birds if you don’t take measures to protect them for yourself!!
Planting Blueberries from Herring Run Nursery
Herring Run Nursery is a native plant nursery in the Baltimore area. They carry several types of blueberries. They are open on weekends or by appointment during the week. They carry lots of native plants, shrubs and trees. The workers at Herring Run can give you advice on what you might like to plant in your garden to attract native pollinators, birds or small animals. Look up native plant nurseries where you live for the best in native plants.
When planting blueberry bushes it is best to plant at least two different types for the best pollination results. Blueberry bushes are self-pollinating but do better and create larger fruits through cross pollination with different type bushes.
Blueberries Like Acidic Soil
When I dug the holes to plant my blueberry plants, I added a lot of peat moss to the soil to make the soil more acidic. Blueberries grow best in acidic soil. Then I mulched them with pine bark mulch which is also acidic. You could also use pine needles as mulch if you have those available.
Protecting Blueberries in the Winter
I started with just one blueberry bush a few years ago. This bush kept its leaves through the winter. Since we now have deer in our neighborhood, I wanted to protect the blueberry from being eaten. I put deer netting around the bush. I read that the deer don’t like the feel of the netting so they won’t eat whatever it is covering. In the meantime, the leaves were not eaten during the winter. Here is a picture of the blueberries growing within the netting. It is clear that the netting would not protect these berries from the birds. I imagine that the bird could just pluck off a blueberry through the netting. So I covered my plant with row cover material.
If you are growing blueberries, your main focus should be to protect blueberries from birds. You might not realize this in the beginning but it is very important to protect blueberries from birds if you want to eat any yourself.
Fortunately I learned this lesson the easy way. I didn’t lose all my blueberries to the birds. I only lost about half of them. Here is the story: Last June I spent a lovely afternoon at the US National Arboretum. I highly recommend visiting the US National Arboretum if you have the chance. The gardens are absolutely beautiful. There are meandering paths with choice places to sit and relax and enjoy the flowers and landscaping. Here is a picture of the place I chose to sit and have lunch. You can see the US Capitol in the background and the bush in front of the tree trunk is a blueberry bush! As you can see I found a shady spot where I could eat my lunch!
How I Learned to Protect Blueberries From Birds
I was eating my lunch and relaxing. I noticed that birds kept alighting on the bushes and pecking on something. As I looked closer I realized that there were several blueberry bushes in front of me. The birds were have a great lunch also!! The thing that really surprised me was that the blueberries weren’t even close to being ripe. They were just starting to get a purplish-bluish tinge to them! The birds didn’t care if they were ripe. They were taking the berries before they even had a chance to get ripe for us! They must like them that way. This was a great learning lesson for me. You need to protect blueberries from birds before they are even ripe. Here is a closeup of one of the blueberry bushes and you can see that a lot of the berries have been eaten!
One Idea to Protect Blueberries From Birds
I posted a few years ago on protecting berries from the birds using row covers. These row covers work very well to save your berries! Just make sure you get them on early enough before the birds start eating the berries.