Protecting from Critters
Don't we wish! While no bulb will ward off mice, voles, moles and other underground pests, there are some easy precautions that can protect your bulbs. One is to plant bulbs deeply enough then cover them properly with soil to deter mice. A second is to create a barrier: simply lay finely meshed netting or chicken wire around the border of the planting then tuck the edges slightly into the soil. See the "Squirrels, Deer and Pests" section for more information.
These furry foragers aren't so cute after nibbling their way through a bulb garden, are they? Unfortunately, there's no easy answer to these relentless and challenging pests. While daffodils and other narcissi bulbs taste awful to them, their champagne tastes can wreak havoc on plantings of tulips and crocus. Using pest-resistant plant material in exposed beds and planting vulnerable tulips and crocuses in protected areas (near the front door, for instance) can be effective. Commercial repellents are often sticky and unpleasant to deal with or wash away in the rain. A favorite Dutch remedy is to interplant Fritillaria imperialis, a tall, dramatic plant that squirrels (and reportedly deer) think smells like skunky gym socks. One sure-fire line of defense is to lay wire mesh such as chicken wire on top of the bed. Squirrels can't dig through it and the flowers will find their way through the holes. A starving deer will eat just about anything, and the loosened soil after planting in autumn makes bulbs particularly vulnerable to industrious squirrels. So don't advertise your plantings by leaving debris like papery bulb tunics or scented bits from the bulb bags at the site. Garden writer Judy Glattstein suggests laying old window screens in frames on top of the newly-worked up soil after planting. The screen foils the squirrel but allows air and rainfall to get through. Once the ground has settled, remove the screens. Home remedies bulb gardeners don't quite agree on include sowing cayenne pepper into the soil or on the bulbs before planting and scattering moth ball flakes on the ground. Last, try providing a delicacy without the digging. Gardeners at The White House reduced damage to bulb beds by 95% by erecting six peanut-filled feeding boxes for them to feast on instead.
Each year, bulb cultivation depends less and less on crop protection agents and their use has dropped dramatically over the last ten years thanks to better research and better commercial practices. Today, many bulb-growing companies are using organic means to prevent diseases and pests. We also know that techniques such as preventive spraying for such problems as fungi should be applied as necessary, not as normal. This has helped lower growers' costs and benefitted the environment. Working this way to apply a perfect balance of fertilizers allows the bulbs to receive sufficient nutrients while discharging much smaller quantities of hazardous substances into surface waters.