Have birdfeeders? Do this in fall to make spring clean-up quick and easy!

Have birdfeeders? Do this now to make clean-up easier in spring!

I love to watch birds eating at our birdfeeders every winter. We put our feeders out in November and keep them filled until there are other food sources, usually sometime in May. What I don’t love is the the thick layer of discarded shells and scattered birdseed that covers my garden.

This is what the front garden bed looked like under the front yard bird feeder last March:


That’s a 2 to 3″ thick layer of safflower seed* shells on top of the spot where I grow scilla in spring and then hostas and other perennials later on. It forms a very dense mat that would, if not dealt with, choke out all the little scilla bulbs as they tried to grow.


I used to just try to shovel the seed shells off in early spring. It helped, but I broke the tips off some of the emerging bulbs and I could only remove about 60% of the shells. But then I came up with the idea of laying down a barrier under my birdfeeder when I first hung it out in the fall. Then, in the early spring, I could just lift the barrier, taking all the seed shells with it, and leaving the emerging bulbs underneath intact.

I tried it last fall and it worked very well. I couldn’t lift the barrier as early as I thought I should, in spring, as it was frozen solid to the ground. But I lifted it as soon as it thawed and the garden performed beautifully.

We had our first blast of winter this week so today we hung out our birdfeeders for the season, and I took photos to show you how to protect your garden from birdseed shells.

My supplies were a piece of burlap and some garden staples*


I laid out the burlap underneath the birdfeeder, and then started tacking down the edges with the garden staples:

I used 10 staples on a piece of burlap that was about 2′ x 4′. A slightly larger piece of burlap wouldn’t be a bad idea, but this is big enough to catch the bulk of the dropped seed and shells.

When I was done, it looked like this:


Last year I threw a few handfuls of leaves on top of the burlap so that it would blend in with the rest of the garden (as I leave leaves on my garden beds over the winter,) but it will soon be covered with birdseed shells and snow.



OK, cardinals, chickadees, juncos and sparrows, I’ve laid out a tablecloth for you, come and enjoy your dinner!


*Disclosure: some of the links on this page are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.


  1. Brenda on November 19, 2018 at 8:40 am

    Good idea – have been pondering that recently before I put up another bird feeder!

    • Jennifer on November 24, 2018 at 7:28 pm

      Thanks for the feedback, Brenda. Multiple feeders are great but yes, figuring out how to deal with the mess first is a good idea!

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