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.
Another 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.
Hi Allen, I love your show and all the info you give. I have a huge problem with squirrels in my bird feeders and in my garden. I like squirrels, but I love my flowers and visiting birds. Please help!!!!
I completely understand your distress! Squirrels are cute, but they can be nuisances that are sometimes hard to live with. However, there are a few things that you can do to make co-existence a little easier.
When it comes to guarding your bird feeders you have a few options. First you can purchase a squirrel-proof feeder. These can be as simple as one with a baffle to block the squirrels from climbing onto the feeder or a more high-tech version that has a perch that rapidly rotates when triggered by the weight of the squirrel.
Where you position your bird feeder will also help. Bird feeders should be placed at least 6 feet from a jumping off point such as tree limbs, power lines, fences, and rooftops. Another option is to fill your feeder with safflower seeds. Squirrels hate the taste of it.
To further reinforce these steps you can set up a squirrel feeding station with some of the foods they like to eat such as corn and sunflower seeds. If you start feeding the squirrels, you need to know they can be big eaters. One squirrel can finish off an ear of corn in a day. So whatever you feed them, make sure you have plenty on hand.
And here’s another tip, when you feed squirrels in the winter you will keep them out of your bird feeder, but if you continue to feed them in the summer you will also keep them out of your garden.
To repel squirrels add a few plants to your flower borders that have a strong astringent fragrance such as artemisia or santolina. If that doesn’t keep them away, trying spraying the plants they are particularly fond of with a hot pepper spray. You can either purchase this from a garden center or make a batch at home. To make hot pepper spray simply puree two large cayenne peppers in a blender or food processor. Strain the puree to remove any seeds or solids. Add the strained puree to 1 gallon of water. When you are ready to spray, dilute 1/4 cup of the hot pepper concentrate with 1 gallon of water. To help the spray adhere to leaves also add about 1/4 tablespoon of dishwashing soap. When working with hot peppers it is important to wear gloves and keep your hands away from your face and eyes. As with any spray, before you apply your hot pepper mix make sure your plants are well hydrated and test a small area before spraying the entire plant.