As long as we have been planting fall bulbs, we have been bothered again and again by those not-so-friendly visitors: squirrels. Anxious for a nibble of our freshly-planted tulips and crocuses, they ransack our fall plantings and leave us empty-handed in spring. So, what do we do to protect them?
Why Squirrels Eat Bulbs
While their ruthless scavenging may be frustrating to wake up to the day after careful planting, the truth is, their excavating escapades are actually far more than just a tasty treat. In fact, bulbs are one of the few ways that squirrels can get the nutrition they need! Strangely enough, although they may be herbivores, squirrels can’t digest cellulose, a key component of green plants (and by a key component, we’re talking 90%!). So, given that most of the herbivore diet is then eliminated, their options for plant-based meals are seriously restricted.
In order to survive, squirrels must rely on other plant-based materials that are rich in proteins and fats that can keep them going for long periods at a time. And, while nuts are usually a great way for them to get that, they tend to become a bit harder to come by as the days grow colder. So, a starchy flower bulb planted right in front of them suddenly becomes pretty hard to resist.
How to Stop Squirrels from Eating Bulbs
Just because we know why the squirrels enjoy dining on our fall bulbs, doesn’t mean we want them digging up all our hard work. So, in order to keep our garden planted and protected, there are a few steps we can take to keep them at bay:
Create a wire barrier. The easiest way to stop curious critters from digging is to put an actual barrier in the way. Trouble is, while we want to keep the squirrels from getting in, we want our blooms to still be able to make their way out. Chicken wire is a great way to do both at once. The wire mesh is too tough for the devilish diggers to penetrate, but still leaves enough room for stems and blooms to make their way through in spring. Simply lay down a layer of wire mesh on top of the soil after planting and cover with a layer of mulch—which will also help to regulate temperatures and moisture in the soil all winter long!—and watch as your bulbs poke through in spring without trouble.
Create bulb cages. If a full layer of wire mesh on top of your garden isn’t your idea of a perfectly planted fall bed, you can also just add a layer around those bulbs that the squirrels love most. How? You might be able to find pre-built bulb cages at your local garden center, but you can also make your own from scratch using the same chicken wire. Simply form the wire mesh into a bowl shape, place your bulb inside, and top it off with a wire lid. Then, just fill with soil and plant at the normal depth.
Use repellents. Many garden centers will often carry a few rodent or deer repellents that can be useful in keeping squirrels at bay, most usually repel using a scent. We highly recommend a product called Plantskydd. It’s 100% natural and safe, and its formula triggers a prey response in critters that naturally they want to avoid! Plus, you don’t need to reapply after rain or irrigation.
Hide the bulbs under groundcovers. Freshly turned soil for a squirrel is like a red flag for a bull: a big, flashing sign that says, “Look right here!” So, by planting your bulbs under existing fall plants and groundcovers like ivy or vinca, squirrels will have a harder time seeking them out.
Mulch with gravel. Gravel can be a great way to keep your garden looking crisp and clean, while also providing some of the temperature- and weed-regulating benefits of traditional mulch. Plus, it’s also a pain for squirrels to dig through (literally)!
Bulbs to Deter Squirrels from Your Garden
While there are certain bulbs that squirrels just can’t seem to resist, like tulips and crocus, there are some others that squirrels just can’t stand. And by planting these less desirable finds around the tasty treats, you can effectively create an all-natural deterring barrier to protect your classic spring-bloomers. Bulbs that are great at keeping squirrels at bay include daffodils, alliums, and scillas—and, lucky for you, they’re all beautiful bloomers you won’t mind having around to fill your beds!
Squirrels may be cute to catch munching away on an acorn in a tree, but finding them neck-deep in a hole in your garden bed isn’t their greatest look. With these tried and true protection methods, though, you can be sure to keep your spring-bloomers safe from even the craftiest of critters!
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