Many of the plants that grow from birdseed can be classified as weeds. In fact, Oregon State University warns that birdseed is known for creating weed infestations. Most commercial seed mixes contain only a small percentage of seed that birds find desirable, with the rest being filler seed species, such as red millet and sorghum, that end up on the ground and grow into weeds.
Positioning a bird feeder wisely will also help prevent a weedy birdseed mess. Oregon State University recommends positioning a tray beneath the bird feeder to catch any spillage. Placing the feeder over a concrete patio or driveway where seeds can’t germinate also helps prevent a weed infestation. Be sure to sweep up any seeds that do spill on the ground immediately after you notice them.
Use No-Waste Birdseed
One of the most straightforward solutions for curbing weed growth from birdseed is to purchase no-waste birdseed. Birdseed makes a weedy mess when it is scattered on the ground in part because the seed is minimally processed and still able to germinate. No-waste birdseed comes pre-hulled so that it can’t germinate if it lands on the ground. Sometimes called ‘low-waste’ or ‘mess-free’ birdseed, this variety is more expensive than many other birdseed blends, but it will prevent weeds while keeping wild birds fed.
It is easy to identify plants from birdseed by their seedy heads, which self-sow prolifically if left to grow. Fortunately, there are several strategies to prevent the mess while still attracting seasonal and year-round birds to the garden.
Choosing the right feeder can help eliminate the seed waste that causes weed infestation by providing a more efficient feeding experience catered to the species of bird. Different types of birds respond to different types of feeders. Tube feeders will attract small birds that like to hang upside down while foraging, such as chickadees and goldfinches, while hopper-style feeders work best for larger birds, such as grosbeaks and cardinals, according to the University of Florida IFAS Extension. Platform feeders work well for a variety of birds depending on whether they are hung high in a tree or placed near the ground.
Black thistle bird seed is known as Niger, Nyger or Nyjer seed. The plant that produces the seed is not related to a thistle, but the tiny seed resemble the seeds of the thistle plant. The seeds are widely cultivated in Asia and Africa for their oil content, as a livestock feed and for export as a bird seed feed. Nyjer seed from bird seed is heat-treated to prevent germination before export. About 80 percent of the seeds are rendered incapable of germination through this method, but the remaining 20 percent will sprout. The plant produces an abundance of yellow flowers, and each flower head contains 30 to 40 seeds.
Water until the soil is moist. Do not flood the seeds. Keep the soil moist as you await germination.
Mix 50 percent peat moss with 50 percent garden soil. Smooth the seed bed, and remove all weeds.
Choose a location that offers full sun to plant the Nyjer seed. The seeds can survive in diverse soil conditions. In Africa, the black thistle seeds are grown in poor soil conditions that often suffer from extensive runoff and erosion.
Thin the plants if an abundance of seeds sprout. Space the plants every 6 inches, discarding pulled seedlings.
A low platform feeder doesn’t stop the amount of bird seeds kicked out. But it does help keep it confined to a smaller area. Then those ground-feeding birds can locate the spilled seeds easier and eat more of it up from the ground.
You can buy seed catcher trays that hang under most styles of bird feeders. Then you can catch both the discarded hulls and any whole seeds that might have fallen from the feeder. It keeps the ground under your bird feeder much cleaner!
House finches sit on the feeder and “chew” the seeds, cracking them open and dropping the hulls out of the feeder. Sometimes the birds accidentally pull out extra seeds that drop to the ground. But there is certainly less fallen seed than in hopper and platform feeders, where birds stand in the tray with the seeds.
Tip 11) Add pavers or flagstones under your feeders
Many mixed seed varieties feature a no-mess or no-waste bird seed. These contain such bird foods as hulled sunflower seeds (seeds without hulls), hulled white proso millet, sunflower chips (hulled and broken), peanut pieces, cracked corn, dried fruits, and nuts (without the shell).
Regularly rake or sweep up the hulls and spilled seeds before they germinate. You may wish to invest in an outdoor backpack vacuum/blower. You need one anyway, for those fall leaves, right?
You can keep bird seed from sprouting by changing your seeds, changing your feeder, and changing your landscaping using the 14 tips that follow.
It is inevitable that uneaten seeds will spill out of your bird feeders. The birds themselves may knock some of it out in all of their activity. This uneaten seed will germinate and sprout in your lawn under your feeders. How do you keep sprouting bird seed under control?