Ways To Protect 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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October 15, 20120 found this helpful

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.

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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.

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October 18, 20120 found this helpful

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.

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