Protecting Bulbs from Squirrels

Now I like to extend the bounty of my garden to wildlife. In fact, I select plants that I know will offer a source of food and shelter. But even invited garden guests can wear out their welcome, especially when it comes to squirrels and fall bulb planting.

It is very disheartening to discover all the hard work that went into planting bulbs has been destroyed by an over zealous squirrel.

Over the years I have learned a few tips that help prevent such a disaster. First, I make sure to carefully clean up the area where I have planted bulbs. Anything left behind will provide the squirrels with a scent clue to help them find the bulbs. This means also picking up any of the papery jackets that have fallen off the bulbs during the planting process.

Hyacinth BulbsAnother tip that I have learned is to protect the area with cages formed from chicken wire. Cut a piece of chicken wire 1 inch larger on each side than the size of bulb bed. Bend the edges to create a shallow box top shape and set the chicken wire on top of the ground once the bulbs are planted. Push the 1 inch edges down into the soil to hold it in place. After the ground freezes you can remove the cages and cover the bed with a 2 to 3 inch layer of mulch.

In areas where I know squirrels and other creatures are a problem, I select bulb varieties that are bitter tasting and therefore not attractive to foraging wildlife. A few of my favorites are allium, camassia, Crocus tommasinianus, fritillaria, galanthus, Spanish bluebells, hyacinths, leucojum, muscari, narcissus, ornithogalum, oxalis and scilla.

As a final measure I set up a feeding station with dried corn or peanuts to distract squirrels from the freshly planted bulbs. This helps keep them out of my bird feeders as well.

There is an old wives tale that says you can forecast the coming winter by looking at the squirrels. If they are plump it is going to be a cold one, thin and winter will be mild. I can’t vouch for the veracity of this statement, but if the squirrels in my garden put on a few extra pounds this fall it won’t be from eating bulbs.