Below bird feeder gardening
March 10, 2010 3:37 AM   Subscribe

What should I plant beneath my bird feeders?

I have a spot in my garden that gets about half a days sun (due to the house blocking the sun) and I have three bird feeders on a pole that I keep stocked with sunflower hearts. You can see it here on the left at the end of the deck

The birds eat the parts they like and toss the rest resulting in an unsightly mess on the earth below that attracts both pigeons and slugs.

I'd like to plant some sort of ground cover that at least hides the litter and deters the pigeons a bit. It will have to be slug resistant as we have legions of them.

I'd also like it to be something requires very little care as I don't want to muck about around bird droppings too much.
posted by srboisvert to Home & Garden (16 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Chives - hardy, slightly spiky, grows well and has some propensity to repel slugs.
posted by MuffinMan at 3:50 AM on March 10, 2010

Maybe some variety of hosta. For the slugs, try putting a border of sharp-edged, crushed stone around the plants. My Mom uses those pumice BBQ rocks that you get for gas grills... slugs HATE-EM ! I use what's called Inch-minus, it's a crushed stone used for roads and driveways . A whole dump truck load (12 CY) is only about $200. YMMV.
posted by lobstah at 4:14 AM on March 10, 2010

Mint. Grows anywhere, repels rodents. Oh, you didn't think you had those?
posted by Pollomacho at 4:25 AM on March 10, 2010

Cornflowers. They are pretty, grow like mad, and when they go to seed, the finches will happily chow down on them.
posted by mmmbacon at 4:37 AM on March 10, 2010

Since you're in the UK, and since I know my friend in the UK loves growing it -- how about some lovely lavender?
posted by amtho at 4:48 AM on March 10, 2010

I'd plant something like a Pyracantha (Firethorn). Pretty shrub with plenty of berries that birds love, can be trained into a dense, thorny bush (which will keep pigeons away). Gravel round the base will deter slugs.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 4:58 AM on March 10, 2010

I'd suggest something low-growing, woody, and evergreen, like cotoneaster, wintercreeper, or dwarf barberry. Or a ground cover rose--based on those photos, someone appears to know what they're doing in the landscaping department, so perhaps you can judge whether that spot would get adequate light/drainage for a rose to do well.
posted by drlith at 5:10 AM on March 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

A warning about mint - it won't stay where you plant it. It spreads, a lot.
posted by COD at 5:28 AM on March 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

Cosmos. Tall, fast-growing, cheerful, and EASY.
posted by applemeat at 5:41 AM on March 10, 2010

I'd suggest against hostas. Slugs LOVE THEM SO MUCH.

Also, I absolutely love your "Yard Watch" photo set. Thanks for that!
posted by cooker girl at 6:41 AM on March 10, 2010

I'm not sure I'd go for hostas- those big, broad leaves will shed the castoff seed fine, but will show bird droppings.
I'd suggest columbine. It's pretty, and it will tolerate part-shade just fine.
Also, I am killingly jealous of your beautiful yard.
posted by Adridne at 7:01 AM on March 10, 2010

Chives also spread a LOT, but are somewhat easier to control than mint if you stay after them.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:42 AM on March 10, 2010

You'll want to use a seed mix that doesn't have viable sunflower seeds, as sprouting sunflowers release a toxin into the soil that sickens other plants.
posted by The otter lady at 10:10 AM on March 10, 2010

Response by poster: I am not the landscaper...I'm a renter and we lucked into this place with most of the garden already set though we have added and subtracted from it since we moved here. Don't over estimate our gardening prowess. It is really really really easy to grow things in the middle of England. The challenge is actually stopping things from growing.

Adridne, I actually have packet of aquilegia that I am going to pot tomorrow so I'll definitely put some in there. We actually had some grow on the other side of the path off the deck.

drlith - it is hard to see but there are actually three rose plants that ring the area.

Amtho - we have some lavender that I might move there or I might get some more but I think the spot might not get enough sun.

Hostas are a definite no go around here unless you are willing to unleash serious anti-slug measures (I'm not - we have frogs in our pond, cats and once in a blue moon a fox in the yard and are bird feeders so I don't want to go poisoning things). I've seen entire large plants eaten in just a few days after planting on our street. When I said legions of slugs I really meant legions. Roman legions that march in formation and conquer all. I beer trapped for 3 days and drowned about 150 slugs. Then other slugs came and ate the dead ones.
posted by srboisvert at 12:03 PM on March 10, 2010

n-ing mint. To control its spread, just edge in a solid steel or plastic barrier down into the ground about 6" or so around where you want to keep it until the barrier is level with the ground. I just cut off the top 6" of a 5 gallon plastic bucket and push that circle of plastic down into the ground. Plant one small cutting of mint in the middle of it, let it fill in over the summer, and you're set. Mojito's for everyone!
posted by webhund at 4:18 PM on March 10, 2010

Oregano and marjoram are in the mint family, but not as tall and not as invasive (in my garden). You wouldn't use it for cooking because of bird poo, but it smells nice if you happen to tread on it.
posted by theora55 at 4:46 PM on March 10, 2010

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