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There is No Such Thing as Cheap Birdseed!
I wish I could buy cheap birdseed but the cost is just too prohibitive
When we moved to Pike Road and began building our garden one of the first things we purchased was a bird feeder. Not knowing any better, I bought the cheapest bird seed I could find. Not only did this cheap seed attract all the wrong birds; birds who would scatter seeds all over the garden, but these spilled seeds would quickly germinate and we would have to constantly pull the 'weeds' from our beds.
( photo / image / picture from Accidental Gardener's Garden )
After seeing this, a neighbor, who is a landscaper, told me about a store in Montgomery where they sold all kinds of bird seed and maybe they could help. So off I went to find Wild Birds Unlimited.
I met the owner, a delightful woman who just seemed to light up the room as she scurried about the store taking care of customers. I explained my dilemma that I wanted to feed the birds but I did not want to create more weeds. She claimed she had just the answer and it was called 'No Mess' a non-germinating bird seed and was guaranteed not to sprout if it landed in my garden.
Paula went on to explained her procedure at WBU. If you purchased 10 bags you got 2 more for free and you did not have to take it all with you. They would keep a record and you could pull from your inventory as needed. However, this was not 'cheap' bird seed as the 10 twenty lb. bags were $200.00 and change. But I bought it and more importantly started using it. Within a few days the sparrows and starlings decided they did not like the new menu and flew off. They were quickly replaced by cardinals, blue jays and representatives of almost every songbird in Alabama. All were dining at our feeder. We even had a red headed woodpecker that would join us for lunch occasionally. Along with the finches and the many hummingbirds that had their own feeders, it was so nice watching them all feed, use the birdbaths and just chirp and sing.
Of course Bearcat my Maine Coon thought she had died and gone to kitty Disneyland but all she ever did was stalk, there were too many birds for her to be able to sneak up on any one of them. Her chief nemesis a dive bombing mockingbird always let out a screeching warning if Bear ever did manage to get close. And the best part of this entire situation was there were no sprouting seeds in the garden - it was truly the best of both worlds.
That was four years ago and as time went on the memory of the weeds faded while the price of No-Mess went from $20 a bag to over $30 and every time I plopped down $300.00 for bird seed a little voice in my head would whisper in my ear, 'You can't be this stupid, you can buy a 20 lbs bag of seed at Publix for $8.50. But, by then Paula and Audrey and everyone else who worked there had become friends and I enjoyed stopping in and just talking with them, so I continued to buy the 'good stuff'. It came to pass that one day I went in to purchase another order of seed when Paula announced that her husband was being transferred up north and she would be closing her store and joining him. So in a sad and unexpected way I got my wish. After the store closed last fall, I started buying a 40 lb box of bird seed from our local Costco Warehouse for $14.99.
Through the fall and winter the sparrows, starlings and doves returned and I was holding out hope that the songbirds would return with the spring. But that never happened. There were days when so many blackbirds were covering the trees and the fence that I expected to see Tippy Hedren and Alfred Hitchcock walk by at any moment.
( photo / image / picture from Accidental Gardener's Garden )
Then in April we got 10" of rain in 6 hrs. and our lake quickly rose and ended up flooding our flower beds. They were actually under water for almost 24 hrs. When the water receded it took most of my new mulch with it. While we were taking inventory of what we lost I noticed a short but full carpet of green sprouts coming up in the newly planted annual section that is under our feeder. It had formed on top of the old mulch and is probably why that mulch did not end up in the lake too. I made a mental note to pull them and went about doing whatever it was I was doing. Three days later my annual section was buried by a huge 3" thick and 10' around carpet of sprouts. It was a vegan's food fest but a gardener's nightmare. They were everywhere around the bird feeder. We were literally pulling them out by the handfuls until I finally got a spade and began lifting them out by the shovel full. We lost more annuals to the sprouts than we did to the flood. It was then that my wife looked at me and declared there will be no more bird feeding in our garden.
So that old adage is true; be careful of what you wish for because you just might get it. Oh, to have access to another Wild Birds Unlimited Store because price is not an issue anymore.
A post script to this blog which I posted last April on another garden site: Two people contacted me after reading it. A friend in Ohio who was going to Florida for a wedding volunteered to drop off a supply of No-Mess from her local WBU store on her way through town. I readily accepted the offer and we had a very enjoyable lunch and visit. And Audrey, who is also a Master Gardener, was now working at a local garden center let me know that she was bringing in an equivalent of WBU's No-Mess. So I have been able to keep the birds coming around and will be able to do so well into the future.
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Great information and story...now tell me how to keep the squirrels away and I will be a happy camper.
Thanks Jerry, I just looked on-line and found a WBU about 20 minutes from my house so I will be checking it out. I do buy song bird food but there is some sprounting of weeds in the spring. I don't have my feeders out in the summer because of this.
I enjoyed your blog entry a lot, Jerry. That is a great story and a good lesson. There are two WBU near here (Baltimore-Wahsington-Annapolis metro area)... I keep thinking I'll stop there. Hey, here is an idea for you -- why not open a WBU in your area???? Is it a franchise?
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