Mysterious Happenings in the Vegetable Garden…..

Our Vegetable Garden

A few weeks ago, I ventured out to my vegetable garden, eager to see the seedlings that I had sowed the week before.  My seedlings had started to break through the soil a couple of days earlier.

Our Vegetable Garden

Our Vegetable Garden in May

We had enjoyed a wonderful summer crop and I was looking forward to growing broccoli, onions, lettuce, carrots and more this winter.

I had hoped to see my seeds coming up, much like my mother’s vegetable seedlings from last year.  She planted hers in small transplant pots while I directly sowed my seeds in the ground.

Our Vegetable Garden

My mother’s vegetable seedlings from last year.

You know, there are few pleasures in the garden that match the excitement that you experience when you start to see your seeds begin to poke through the soil.

Well, as I ventured out into the vegetable garden, I noticed shallow scrapes in the soil and some of my seedlings that had been dug up.  I was mortified.  

At first, I couldn’t figure out who did it.  My first thought was that it was Tobey, my little dog who tends to get into a lot of trouble…..


Tobey seems to have an affinity for dirt of all kinds.  He is always present when we are digging holes for new plants and likes to rest upon the pile of soil.

But I soon ruled out Tobey as the culprit because my husband built a fence around our vegetable garden to keep him out and there was not way for him to get in unless he figured out a way to jump a 3 ft. fence.

We did not have this problem with our seedlings in the spring time when we planted our summer garden, so I tried to rack my brain (not always easy) to figure out what was different now in our garden.  

That was when I figured it out……

The past couple of months our garden has played host to a pair of cute little birds.  I had never seen this type of bird before, but I was charmed by their behavior.  They would hop about and scratch the ground looking for food.  They would not fly up to the bird feeder to get some birdseed, but instead would scratch the soil underneath the feeder.

I also would see them scratching around in other parts of the garden as well, especially around the bark chips surrounding my roses.  They actually kick out quite a bit of bark and fling it about.

They do have a wonderful little cheep and have not heard them ‘sing’ like other birds.  So, armed with what little information I had, I went searching through my bird book to identify the vegetable-seedling eating birds.

My research was a success and so now I would like to introduce you to…..

Photo Courtesy of Alan D. Wilson

 Photo Courtesy of Alan D. Wilson

Abert’s Towhee.

Despite their somewhat drab coloring….their black masks as well as their funny hopping and scratching antics made them a welcome addition to my garden….until now.  My husband offered to bring out his BB gun, but I quickly nixed that idea….I like birds.

And so I did a little research about ways to deter birds and found out that some birds absolutely love to feed on seedlings because of their high sugar content.  Once the seedlings have grown two regular leaves, the sugar level goes down and most birds no longer find them appetizing.  So, I went back to the store to buy more vegetable seeds for the garden and also came away with the solution to my problem…..

Mysterious Happenings in the Vegetable Garden

Talk about a gardener’s best friend.  I can now enjoy watching the antics of my resident Abert’s Towhees while they cannot enjoy my vegetable garden ๐Ÿ™‚

****I am currently in the process of creating a cutting (flower) garden with my husband’s help.  I cannot wait to share it with you.****


Noelle Johnson, aka, 'AZ Plant Lady' is a author, horticulturist, and landscape consultant who helps people learn how to create, grow, and maintain beautiful desert gardens that thrive in a hot, dry climate. She does this through her consulting services, her online class Desert Gardening 101, and her monthly membership club, Through the Garden Gate. As she likes to tell desert-dwellers, "Gardening in the desert isn't hard, but it is different."
12 replies
  1. Annelie
    Annelie says:

    Funny how the closest to us always are suspected and get the blame first.
    Sorry you lost your little seedlings.
    Cute birds though, and it seems as though you did enjoy having new visitors to your garden even though they did some damage.


  2. Skeeter
    Skeeter says:

    Now that is a new one to me! I have never had a bird dig up and eat seedlings before. We have the Rufus Towhee and yes, they are hopping little diggers usually on the ground under the bird feeders or in the mulch…

  3. debsgarden
    debsgarden says:

    I hope your bird block works! Do they also make rabbit block? I recently planted some pansies in my Lady Garden. This week, every bloom was neatly nibbled away. I suspect it was a rabbit I recently saw hopping about. Where's that red fox that used to live in my woodlands?

  4. JGH
    JGH says:

    Aha! glad you figured it out! This week I noticed that my chickens were (thankfully!) ignoring my radish seedlings. Now I know that it's probably because they weren't sweet enough! They seem to eat everything else.

  5. Curbstone Valley Farm
    Curbstone Valley Farm says:

    It is amazing how much damage birds can do to seedlings. We cover all our seedlings with row covers now, in part because of the chickens and turkeys, but we also live in the woods, and birds abound! (Not that I'm complaining…I'd just like my lettuce to have a chance to grow!)

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