You spent a crisp fall morning digging holes, planting bulbs, and scattering organic fertilizer, dreaming of how lovely the flowers will look next spring. But to your horror, the next day you find the holes have been excavated, the bulbs scattered on top of the soil or missing. The squirrels (aka “Those rascals!”) have struck again.
Occasionally these bandits have taken away your bulbs to nibble, but usually this isn’t the case. Squirrels sense loosened soil, so they are apt to dig down looking for the tasty nut some other critter has apparently buried there. They typically toss the bulb aside, uninterested, as they search for something more to their liking.
Skunks will also dig newly planted bulbs, looking for a large, tasty grub. They too are attracted to loosened soil and the bulb is pushed aside as they hunt for a juicy larva.
Online searches will turn up recommendations for how to keep squirrels away from bulbs by encasing them in chicken wire cages but this is seldom needed. If we think about it, the New England landscape is filled with beautiful spring daffodils, crocus, and other flowering displays, many naturalized into large fields or swaths on the roadside. No one has caged these bulbs in chicken wire and the squirrels don’t dig them up.
The key to making your new plantings as untouched as those established plantings is settling the disturbed soil immediately after planting. Several rainfalls will do the trick, but Mother Nature can be unreliable about delivering precipitation on demand. So one way to make those newly planted bulbs invisible is to water the area well once you’ve finished planting.
Those who have turned off their outside spigots and put hoses into storage for the winter can turn to the chicken wire, but not for caging each bulb. Since spring bulbs are normally planted in groups, it’s easy to stretch a piece of the fencing over the area where you’ve planted. Weight this down with logs or rocks, and it will prevent the squirrels from digging. Once three or four rainfalls have settled the soil, lift the chicken wire pieces, roll them up and save them. Next fall you’ll use them again to outwit those bulb bandits.
Do you have any tips for how to keep squirrels away from fall bulbs? Let us know!
This post was first published in 2016 and has been updated.