Protecting Your Bulbs from Critters Abound

There is nothing worse than the feeling of lost money, and wasted time. Coming home to eaten bulbs and decapitated Tulips definitely generates those feelings. There are tricks to protecting your bulb investment and save you some heartache in the process.

Daffodil bulbs are often overlooked by hungry critters.
Daffodil bulbs are often overlooked by hungry critters.

Rabbits, squirrels, chipmunks, mice, and voles  have been known to chew a few bulbs in their day. They dig them up to munch on, or eat them right in the ground. The key is  knowing who you are dealing with; the main predators in your yard. Knowing how they eat will give you a better plan for protection. Observe your yard for signs of tunneling (small holes for mice and voles, large for moles) rabbit pellets, and of course listen for chipmunk shrills and squirrel cackles. Knowing is half the battle.

If squirrels have taken over your car-it may be too late.
If squirrels have taken control of your car-it may be too late.

Once you have determined who you having living in your yard, take the necessary precautions. Moles, although strictly insectivores can dig access tunnels for voles and chipmunks that eat the actual bulb pulp, without ever digging up the bulb. Pre-soaking your bulbs in a liquid deterrent will help keep them at bay. Products such as Bonide Bulb Dust when used as a liquid slurry, and allowed to dry before planting, is an effective measure against these bulb eaters. It creates a natural taste and smell repellent on the bulbs. Protecting the area from grubs will help keep moles away. You can also try spreading human hair, and used kitty litter to keep mice, voles and chipmunks away.

Products such as Bonide Bulb Dust can help deter foraging by squirrels and chipmunks, as well as prevent nibbling by mice and voles.
Products such as Bonide Bulb Dust can help deter foraging by squirrels and chipmunks, as well as prevent nibbling by mice and voles.

Squirrels love bulbs. They also bury their food in the ground, so it is only natural for them to want to dig sweet-smelling bulbs up to eat. If you have bird feeders over the area where you are planting bulbs, it may be a good idea to move them as they are used to foraging for seed in that location. Some gardeners have had luck spreading blood meal, garlic, and fox urine on the surface to prevent digging. Again soaking the bulbs in a deterrent is also a good idea to help keep digging to a minimum. Squirrels are naturally very curious and will want to check out what you have been doing. After planting your bulbs you can also lay a heavy board over the area. The board will have to be removed after the ground freezes. Also make sure the bulbs can get water. Chicken wire can also be a useful tool but will have to be very securely placed, as squirrels are quite crafty and stubborn when it comes to feeding. Finally, try covering the bulbs in a few inches of sharp gravel. The gravel will poke at their sensitive feet and deter them from getting to the actual bulb. Feeding your squirrels will help keep them from heavily foraging in other locations.

Putting up owl decoys and whirligigs tend to scare squirrels away as well. Moles will stay away from whirlygig vibrations, but of course will only work if it is windy and are therefore not the best method.

Putting up owl decoys, flashing tape and ribbons will keep squirrels at bay. Be sure to move any decoys once or twice a week to keep them effective.
Putting up owl decoys, flashing tape and ribbons will keep squirrels at bay. Be sure to move any decoys once or twice a week to keep them effective.

Rabbits are veracious bulbs eaters. They tend to nip and chew once bulbs have started to emerge. Spraying hot pepper spray as well as fencing are the best approaches. Fencing can have no more than one-inch openings, and must be at least knee-high. Make sure it is properly secured in the ground, as rabbits are good diggers. Several methods may have to be used in order to achieve effective control.

Rabbits are natural prey of the fox. They will avoid areas treated with fox urine.
Rabbits are natural prey of the fox. They will avoid areas treated with fox urine.

Deer are also heavy bulb eaters. They tend to love the taste of sweet flower heads once they have emerged. Planting bulbs that are disliked by deer is the first method to stopping their eating. Daffodils and Allium are the most disliked. Packages of deer-resistant bulbs are also available.  Using Ivory soap shavings is an old-fashioned method to keeping deer away as they hate the smell of strong scents. Blood meal and again, human hair saved from brushes are also old-fashioned methods. A wide variety of new chemical products are extremely reliable; Liquid fence, Bonide Repels-All, and Deer Stopper to name a few.

If deer are problematic in your yard, try a collection of bulbs that are considered deer-resistant.
If deer are problematic in your yard, try a collection of bulbs that are considered deer-resistant.

Trying several methods that you are most comfortable with is the best way to ensure the safety of your bulbs. Trial and error, talking with your neighbors and keeping a close eye on things will  help the process. Remember that beautiful springtime blooms after a long winter are worth the effort and can be the most rewarding season in your garden!

Good luck and Happy Gardening!

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