In the months I’ve had to plan the addition of the bulbs, I’ve had plenty of time to research how to protect the bulbs from marauding squirrels! Our yard is home to black, grey and those feisty little red squirrels, all of whom are digging holes anywhere and everywhere to stockpile their food. I’ll be damned if I’m going to let them disrupt my newly planted bulbs after all the effort it took to get them in the ground!
With Google as my friend, here is some of what I learned about protecting bulbs from squirrels.
- Plant bulbs that squirrels don’t like. There are a number of spring bulbs such as alliums, daffodils, hyacinths and muscari that squirrels do not like to eat. Sometimes mixing a few of these into a bed of tulips will do the trick. I did plant a few groupings of daffodils and muscari but, to me, the Spring garden is all about tulips and I didn’t want to mix them together.
- Hide the evidence. You know the dry casings that slough off the bulbs during planting? Pick up all those bits so the squirrels don’t find them. Cover the smell and hide the site of your bulbs by applying a layer of leaves or mulch.
- Use a physical deterrent like mesh or chicken wire. There are two methods here. You can either bury a layer of chicken wire over top of the bulbs where it will remain and the bulbs will grow up through it. Or you can lay the chicken wire on the surface of the ground held down by rocks or bricks and remove it once the ground has frozen solid.
- Apply a repellent. Aside from the commercially blended animal repellents, some gardeners use bone meal or blood meal. Red or cayenne pepper can also be used as a deterrent however that is an awfully inhumane alternative as the pepper physically burns the squirrels. I would never do this.
In the end, I decided to hedge my bets and use a combination of the above. I buried mesh atop the bulbs. I applied bone meal liberally. And I covered the planting sites with cedar mulch. I had the dogs on patrol while I was planting so the squirrels didn’t get close enough to realize what I was doing. So far, the plantings have been safe from the squirrels.
Ironically, however, my dogs have become a problem! The dogs are very much attracted to the smell of the bone meal and keep trying to eat it. Google time again. Ingesting large quantities of bone meal can cause a serious bowel blockage in dogs. So far, I’ve prevented the dogs from consuming much of the bone meal and they aren’t showing any signs of illness, but I doubt I would apply bone meal next time. Hopefully there won’t be a next time anyway if the squirrels leave these bulbs well enough alone.
Happy bulb planting and good luck with the squirrels!