Often the flower bulbs we plant with great anticipation become dinner for our friendly wildlife. Whether they dig up the bulbs or nibble the buds squirrels and other wildlife can decimate your bulb garden. This is a guide about protecting bulbs from wildlife.
As a licensed wildlife rehabilitator and also an Advanced Master Gardener I frequently have people ask questions about keeping their gardens from being eaten by wildlife while not harming the wildlife. There are a number of simple and inexpensive ways to keep wildlife from injuring plants and bulbs.
For large bulbs (like lily trees), an easy way is to wrap the bulb in a bit of chicken wire before planting. I cut a small square big enough to fold over the bulb and crimp down the edges. Just be sure to not let the cut ends poke into the bulb. For small bulbs, the easiest way is to dig a long trench and put a piece of chicken wire at the bottom, place the bulbs and then put another piece on the top. I like to fold the edges a bit to seal the bulbs into the wire. I also add a couple of cloves of garlic in the hole before adding the dirt. You can also sprinkle the top of the soil with garlic powder (I buy the big container at Sam's Club) and the critters will usually stay away from the newly planted bulbs.
There are a couple of ways to keep deer, bunnies, and mice from chewing on plants, particularly in the winter when food is scarce. Unused fabric softener sheets can be tucked under the mulch around plants to keep mice from burrowing. They can also be clothespinned to those little bamboo skewers and placed around the perimeter of the gardens. Just use the strongest fragrance you can find. A longer lasting method is to take one of those little muslin drawstring bags that you can find at feed stores (usually around 25 cents a piece) and cut a small piece of original scent Irish Spring soap and place in the bag. The bag can be loosely tied to a tree or shrub branch or again placed on a little bamboo skewer. When it rains or snows, the soap actually permeates the bag better and the fragrance lasts for a number of months. I have suggested this to friends with cherry orchards and they have had great success with deer not chewing on the trees and breaking the branches.
One more way to keep animals away from your gardens is to buy some of those cute little foil pinwheels; check the dollar stores. Since they seem to turn in the slightest of breezes they work well to scare animals from the gardens, particularly bunnies and deer. As a side note, you will be the talk of the neighborhood as the "eclectic" neighbor.
The fabric softener sheets also work very well to keep mice out of things that are being stored, such as cars, boats, etc. I place a number of the sheets (buy a big box) in our shed during the winter. The key is to have as much scent as possible, since their little noses really do not like the smell and they will usually find another place to spend the winter.
You may have to experiment with your particular situation to see what works the best. One additional benefit of putting garlic gloves in with your bulbs is that in the spring you have new garlic plants emerging. Planting garlic in the fall is best and that is usually the best time to plant your spring bulbs. When you buy the garlic, look for a head that is firm and gently separate the head into the individual cloves. Take care to not peel off the outer paper-like skin, since this protects the clove until it starts to grow. When you plant the bulb, place the root side down like you would any other bulb.
If you are placing bulbs around roses, the roses love garlic. They have a symbiotic relationship. Just be careful to place any bulbs as far away from the roses feeder roots as possible.
I find that the other solutions for keeping animals away from bulbs and plants are much more expensive, i.e., fox urine, liquid fence, etc. I prefer things that are simple and inexpensive. The only commercial product I usually recommend is one of the mole deterrents like Mole Med. It is made with castor oil and seeps into the soil to make the grubs unappetizing to moles. From what I have been able to research it doesn't seem to have any negative impact on the animals or the environment.
Good luck with your gardens and I hope these suggestions help.
By Lilly M from NW MI
Just realize that by planting your bulbs with the wire, should you need to redo or remove the plants, the wire makes it very difficult. It took me hours to remove the wire when i had to take out a flower bed. Plus roots grow on top of the wire and only a few through the wire so you have a mat of roots on top of the wire to remove as well. I will not use this method again.
I agree with you Dawn that if bulbs do need to be moved the wire can cause a problem. I am now getting ready to move to lily trees that were not happy with their location. Using wire is pretty much the only way that I can protect the bulbs from our squirrels, so I have to hope that once I plant them they can stay in the same location.
Two seasons ago, I lost 200 bulbs to squirrels. They cross the highway to get to our yard like it was a salad bar at Boston Market. I read that an older lady used spices, particularly cinnamon and cayenne.
Planting bulbs can really enhance your landscaping. Use a little bone meal to help fertilize each bulb (place about a teaspoon full under each bulb).
We have had the same problems. Last year when we planted tulip bulbs, we prepared the area with bone meal deep underneath the bulbs, as we are convinced that the bone meal is what they smell, and want to dig up.
After I plant my bulbs, I put a piece of very fine screening (like on windows) over the dirt to keep squirrels from eating the bulbs.
Dig a hole for your bulbs, press gravel at the bottom of the hole and along the sides, put the bulb into the hole then put more gravel on top, cover with dirt. Squirrels and other wildlife cannot get at the bulbs.
I already planted my tulip bulbs; I live in zone 5. Now the wildlife are digging them up and friends are telling me to dig them back out of the ground and wait another month or so. I have spent hours searching on the web and have ended up more confused. I would appreciate any ideas anyone may have. Thank you so much
Cover the area where you have planted the bulbs with chicken wire available at a hardware store. A roll may cost about $11. Spread it over the area and place some heavy rock a long the edges. The plants will grow up through the wire in the spring.
I have had squirrels dig the dirt out of my flower pots and eat the roots of the plants. I wish it wasn't illegal to shoot pellet guns where I live.
Shooting a stream of water at the little buggers isn't illegal but is a good deterent. Try it and see (it works for me).
What is the best way to protect bulbs from wildlife?
I've always heard that voles (not moles, but they might as well) hate pointy rocks. So whenever I plant anything new in my gardens, I mix in a handful or two of gravel from the driveway. We have a gravel called "TRG" and I forget what it stands for. It's pointy, though. Broken seashells would work, too. I haven't had any problems at all- all of my plants came back with vigor this year. Some people say that wrapping them in hardware cloth before planting them will do the trick, too- Just leave a gap at the top for the bulb to sprout from. Also, rubber snakes will freak out any renegade squirrels. Just move them around every day or so. As for deer, I hear that human hair and Irish Spring soap will keep them at bay. Good luck!
Dip the bulbs in talc powder before you plant them. the animals don't like the taste and will try one and then leave the rest alone