The Battle for the Bulbs
Autumn is the time of year when we gardeners drool over the spring-blooming bulbs offered by our favorite retail stores and in catalogs. We eagerly fantasizing about next year's flowerbeds. We picture drifts of crocus and gaily swaying tulips, lush daffodils and glorious hyacinths. Snowdrops, irises, and more… Ah, the garden will be great this next spring.
Then we remember the squirrels!
Squirrels and Bulbs
Squirrels like flower bulbs just as much as gardeners, but unfortunately not for their beauty. From the looks of the remains – chewed remnants, dug up holes, battered foliage – those bulbs became satisfying squirrel food. Fortunately, if you choose to plant Daffodil, Hyacinth, Allium, Chionodoxa, and Fritillaria, your bulbs will be safe. Generally, squirrels don't eat these. But how can you protect the bulbs that make the tastiest squirrel treats?
Keeping Squirrels Out of the Flowerbeds
Go ahead and purchase your bulbs while the assortment is at its best. But, before you plant, decide which of the three basic methods you will use to prevent the squirrel attacks. A small investment of time and materials will protect your bulbs.
Wire mesh is the best protection to keep squirrels away from bulbs. Dig the hole for several bulbs, make a "cage" using mesh around the bulbs and fill in the soil. If the squirrels dig, the mesh will prevent them from eating the bulbs. You may also plant the bulbs as usual and place a layer of mesh on the soil. You'll have to secure it to keep it in place then cover with mulch. Be sure the mesh layer is wide enough so squirrels cannot easily dig around the sides to reach the bulbs.
Garden centers sell an assortment of squirrel repellants and many deer repellants will also repel squirrels. Some gardeners swear to the effective use of red pepper flakes mixed in the soil around, and over, the bulbs. Many squirrels don't like spicy tastes, but pepper flakes may need to be replaced after heavy spring rains to be the most effective.
Sharp Gravel or Crushed Oyster Shell
Adding sharp gravel or crushed oyster shell to the soil around and over the bulbs also deters squirrels from digging. Not only do they not like the feel on their sensitive paws, but the gravel and crushed shell - which is a bit heavier than dirt or mulch - is more difficult to move, so the bulbs stay safer.
There is another option to keep squirrels away from bulbs without completely discouraging their visits. If you can't beat 'em, join 'em - because squirrels look for the easiest food sources, a squirrel feeding station stocked with corn and peanuts may be just the thing to keep the squirrels from looking for your buried treasures!