Today we’re taking a bird feeder found in the trash and converting it into a self-watering flower planter that is perfect for trailing plants like lobelia.
This style of bird feeder, with an outer cage and a tube feeder inside, can actually be dangerous for the birds. If you have one, you might consider repurposing into a cool container for your garden instead.
For more ideas, also see 30 Flower Container Ideas to Make Your Garden Wonderful.
Bird Troubles You May Never Notice
When these bird feeders first came on the market, it seemed like a good way to provide seed for the smaller birds while keeping the larger birds and squirrels out.
But, as it turns out, apparently the cage can accidentally harm the small birds who feed there.
When a wild bird is feeding, it needs to be able to flee at any moment when there is a perceived threat. If you’re a bird watcher you know that most birds are very skittish and react to just about anything that moves or makes a noise.
When the wee birds are in the caged feeder and they want to flee, they may smash against the cage on their way out, sometimes hurting themselves or damaging their wings. The very thing that is there to protect them is actually keeping them from freely flying away.
This is something that doesn’t seem to be well-known or is simply disregarded with this type of feeder. Good quality, squirrel-proof feeders (like this Brome feeder on Amazon) are definitely not inexpensive but a much safer choice. As with any wild bird care, it’s better to do nothing at all than do something that can cause harm.
Instead, let’s turn that bad bird feeder into a good planter.
Turn a Tube Feeder into a Self-Watering Planter
I am nuts about lobelia. I particularly love it as it gets massively large mid-summer and looks fabulous from a hanging basket.
The one problem with lobelia is, it will not forgive you if the soil is not kept continually moist.
This bird feeder turned planter may be just what’s needed. The inside feeding tube will become the water reservoir and the openings will gradually release the water into the surrounding soil.
DIY Bird Feeder Planter for Hanging Plants
Here’s the steps.
1. Wash and dry the bird feeder. You could also spray paint the metal to dress it up or give it a bold colour. With the lobelia, I’m hoping it will spread out so big and wide that the cage will actually be invisible by mid-summer.
2. Use metal cutters / tin snips to remove some of the cage wires.
Cut out as many sections as you wish to add plants to. I cut out 10 Xs of wire, spread out around the cage.
3. Add a liner with landscape fabric.
I am definitely on the team that does not like landscape fabric in the garden (it becomes a weed-entangled nightmare), but this stuff does have some good uses for container gardening. You can see it here on Amazon. It’s available in most home improvement stores and garden nurseries.
For this project, I lined the inside of the birdfeeder with landscape fabric. Now I know some of you flip out if I suggest sewing something, but, if you can, it’s very simple to sew the tube of fabric shut (along the long side) to form a nice pocket that lines the feeder and holds the container mix (soil) in place. Alternately, you could use fabric glue to form the liner pouch or do something goofy like staple it, but that might cause you some trouble later. Or form a double layer that will stay in place once the soil is in.
I made my liner extra long so I could wrap the extra around the top lip of the cage.
4. Cut openings in the landscape fabric.
Cut Xs in the landscape fabric in the middle of each plant slot. Make the openings just big enough for your plant root balls.
5. Add plants.
With your landscape fabric tube in place, you can start adding plants.
Add container mix up to the first openings, then insert your plants and continue adding container mix.
If you use organic fertilizer for annuals, now is the time to add some.
The inner tube (that held the birdseed) is quite annoying at this point because it limits how much room you have to reach inside, but it’s worth it for its usefulness in distributing water.
Work all the way up, alternating plants and soil until your container is planted. I added a few extra plants spilling out the top.
Give the whole thing a good watering and enjoy.
When you water, open the top of the birdfeeder and add water both into the hollow feed tube and the soil.
Plants like lobelia that like even moisture will appreciate it.
This is how it looks newly planted. I’m hoping it goes wild and full during the summer.