Friday, June 5, 2009

VHS Tapes: the new Scarecrow?

Another great question this week:

Dear Kelsey,

Thank you for your Garden Blog--such a great idea. I plan to check it often. My question--how do you protect corn seedlings from critters? I planted some seeds and they actually sprouted. A few days later, all the little sprouts were lying flat in the dirt and little holes had been dug exactly where the seeds were planted--I suspect squirrels. I would like to plant some more seeds, but want to protect them. Any thoughts?

Thanks again for your help,

First of all: the best advice I can give you is to plant twice as much. It may be squirrels that are digging up your seed, but it may also be birds. We have seen it many times before—birds will even dig up pepper plants just to pick at them. They don't eat the seed or the plant, they just dig it up (spiteful, I know). There aren't a lot of ways that you can protect seedlings from birds, usually we just have to replant. As my Uncle Gerry says, there is safety in numbers. Plan on having a few taken by the birds/squirrels/etc. and make sure that you will still have what you need if this is the case.

Because your corn seeds should germinate in as little as four days (meaning you will see the small seedlings you mentioned before), it will not put you behind in your gardening to replace what hasn't germinated. Even if it is 10-12 days after planting, just pop in more seeds.

But, there is another option, if you are up for it. You can protect your vegetables AND put those old VHS tapes to good use. I know that in the ECC garden we have surrounded the vegetables with video cassette tape, held up off the ground by stakes. The sound that the film makes as the wind blows is similar to that of a humming bird and can be disturbing to potential critters; also, the tape is reflective and will be startling to any incoming birds (because a bird’s brain is dominated by sensory perception even slight reflection/movement can be overwhelming). Traditionally people have used the tape from cassettes, but VHS tape—because it is thicker—is more effective.

I have also read that aluminum pie plates can be used! String them up in surrounding trees or from tall stakes; again, the movement and reflection will disturb the birds. They will, however, begin to ignore stationary objects (like scarecrows), so make sure there is sound/movement.

As always, let us know if you have any success!



Tomorrow I am off to the store for some pie plates! I also have an old aerobics VHS that will get a much better work out in my garden. I'll let you know how it all works!


This is our 3rd summer using VHS tape as a 'scarecrow' It shimmers, makes a humming noise when the wind blows, and has worked great for us! Highly recommended!

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