Now, it’s fall, your bulbs are in the ground, so we need to deter those pests from digging them up! Planting is time consuming and nothing is more frustrating then having squirrels dig up all your hard work! If you have a lot of squirrels in your neighbourhood, you may want to consider avoiding tulips and crocuses as they are the absolute favourite fall food for squirrels and raccoons as well as deer and rabbits in the spring.
Narcissus (the daffodil family) and hyacinths are rarely bothered by animals because the bulbs and foliage contain toxins and probably taste horrible! Other species of bulbs seldom bothered include Scilla, Chionodoxa (Glory-of-the-Snow), Puschkinia (Striped Squill), Anemones, Snowdrops (Galanthus), Allium (Flowering Onion), and Muscari (Grape Hyacinth). If you still decide or have already planted tulips and crocuses, here are a few tips to deter their feeding:
Squirrels tend to dig where the ground has been newly-disturbed. Cover the area over your bulbs with a two-inch layer of fresh cedar bark mulch or other strongly fragrant mulch. This may be enough to mask the smell of your bulbs.
For large areas, cover with one-inch mesh chicken wire immediately after planting (bulbs will grow up right through this with no trouble at all). Hide the wire using a mulch of soil, bark mulch, or compost.
For smaller areas, lay down old boards, shingles, or even whole sections of newspaper. Leave these in place until the ground freezes hard in late fall. Remove for the winter otherwise the bulbs might be trying to push up through the boards in early spring.
Blood meal scattered on the soil surface is recommended, but needs to reapplied after rain. I still recommend it as it is a good fertilizer for the bulbs and doesn’t hurt as an extra initial deterrent!
Hot cayenne pepper or red pepper flakes will deter squirrels. Sprinkle some in the hole and then on top of the soil. Just remember you will have to reapply in damp or rainy weather, or after a very heavy or continuous frost, right up until the ground is frozen.
A great place to get the cayenne pepper powder or flakes is either at the bulk food store or the dollar store. This is a very economical and effective method as long as you are diligent about reapplying after heavy moisture comes in contact with the pepper.
Also consider planting bulbs deeper than normal (25 to 50 percent deeper), then firming the soil well. Once again, securing a barrier of chicken wire is the best defense.
Author: Colleen Tanner