How to Protect Garden Bulbs from Squirrels
Are squirrels stealing your flower bulbs?
Spring flowers are a treat for gardeners and non-gardeners alike, as their beauty helps us forget the cold and dreary winter days. Some of the earliest and prettiest flowers to arrive each spring are flowers that come from bulbs, including crocuses, tulips and daffodils.
Spring flowering bulbs are typically planted the fall before, and lay dormant over the winter, before they make their much appreciated appearance as flowers. Sadly, many of these bulbs will never make it to the flower stage, as they are often dug up by squirrels who find the bulbs to be tasty snacks.
5 Ways to Protect Your Bulbs from Squirrels
If you have ever been the victim of squirrel thievery, you'll appreciate how frustrating it can be to plant flower bulbs, only to have them relocated to other areas of the garden, or vanish completely.
There are five main ways to keep squirrels from digging up the flower bulbs in your garden. These strategies include:
- Planting bulbs that do not appeal to squirrels.
- Using chicken wire or bulb cages to protect the bulbs.
- Covering the planting area until the ground is frozen.
- Using natural squirrel repellents in the garden.
- Setting up a squirrel feeding station.
Each of these methods is covered in more detail below. If squirrels are particularly troublesome, the best solution is often to use a combination of several of these strategies.
1. Plant bulbs that squirrels don't like
Squirrels seem to love the taste of certain bulbs, especially tulips. However, there are other kinds of bulbs that squirrels do not like, either because of their smell or taste. Planting these bulbs can help deter squirrels from digging in your garden.
Bulbs that squirrels find unpleasant include:
- muscari / grape hyacinth
- fritillaria / crown imperial
You can either choose to plant these types of bulbs exclusively, or you can intersperse these bulbs among your other bulbs such as tulips. I've also had success planting chives and garlic bulbs in the areas where I've planted tulips. The smell of these plants seems to help keep the squirrels away from the tulip bulbs they love so much.
For more ideas, check out Better Homes and Gardens' list of 12 beautiful bulbs that deer and squirrels don't eat.
Which bulbs do the squirrels like best in your garden?
2. Use Chicken Wire or Bulb Cages to Protect Your Bulbs
An effective way to keep squirrels from digging up the bulbs in your garden is to surround the area where the bulbs have been planted with chicken wire, and cover it up with a few inches of dirt or mulch. The flowers will grow up through the open spaces in the chicken wire, but the squirrels can't get through the wire to get to the bulbs.
You can also purchase baskets or cages to plant groups of bulbs in, which will also protect the bulbs from squirrels digging in the garden.
Watch this helpful video for tips on squirrel-proofing your bulbs
3. Cover the Planting Area Until the Ground is Frozen
If you are only planting bulbs in a relatively confined area of your garden, you may want to put a barrier such as a heavy board on top of the soil once the bulbs are planted. Once the ground is frozen, you can remove the board as the squirrels will not be able to dig up the frozen soil to get to the bulbs.
This method can be quite successful, as squirrels will usually (but not always) only dig up the freshly planted bulbs in the fall. However, if you have other plants planted in the same area as your bulbs, you probably won't want to cover them up with a heavy barrier, for fear of damaging the plants.
Have any of these natural squirrel repellents worked for you?
4. Use Natural Repellents to Keep Squirrels Away from your Bulbs
You can buy to keep animals like squirrels and deer out of your garden. Many people claim to have success using natural or homemade versions of these products. Some natural and organic squirrel repellents you may want to try putting around the bulbs in your garden include: repellents
- red pepper flakes
- cayenne pepper
- moth balls or moth ball flakes
You can also place sharp gravel in your garden around the areas where you've planted bulbs. Squirrels tend to avoid these areas, as the gravel hurts their feet when they try to dig there.
5. Set up a Squirrel Feeding Station
If your attempts to keep squirrels out of your garden are unsuccessful, you can try setting up a squirrel feeding station in another area of your yard. The theory here is that by offering an easily accessible source of food that squirrels like, they will have less reason to go searching for treats in the ground.
Good foods to use in your squirrel feeder are corn, nuts, sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds.
In order to ensure the squirrels will eat from the feeder and not from your garden, it's very important to not leave any evidence of your bulb planting in the garden. Always be sure to clean up any debris from the bulbs after planting. Spreading a layer of mulch over the area can help disguise the fact that something has recently been buried there, which may help keep the squirrels away.
Hopefully one or more of these methods will help protect the bulbs in your garden from squirrels. If you have any other suggestions for things that have worked for you, please share in the comment section below!