INFORMATION ABOUT KEEPING SQUIRRELS AND CHIPMUNKS FROM EATING YOUR BULBS…
Image by audreyjm529 Of all the pests that can plague a bulb garden, the most infuriating is by far squirrels and chipmunks. More than a few gardeners have toiled for days over a bed of bulbs, digging holes and lovingly placing bulbs in them, only to wake up one morning and find that every single bulb has been whisked away in the night by a furry thief.
As infuriating and wily as squirrels and chipmunks are, one of the first things you can do to help combat them is to understand why squirrels and chipmunks act like this and how your bulb garden looks from their 1 foot and under perspective.
Squirrels and chipmunks spend a large amount of the warmer seasons storing food for the colder seasons. The classic image we see is a squirrel storing food in a hollow tree, but the reality of squirrel behavior is that they are just as likely to bury their stores of food in several holes around their territory. On top of that, squirrels will often forget where they buried their stores of food and will have to rely on their sense of smell to help the re-locate food that they have stored away.
Chipmunks do not rely on several stores, but rather will search around for food to store in one location. What a better way to fill a nest with tasty treats for winter than to find a forgotten squirrel mind field of food.
So, keeping these facts in mind, what do you think your bulb garden looks like to them? If you put yourself at their level, you can quickly see that in their eyes, your bulbs garden is actually the squirrel and chipmunk equivalent of a Las Vegas all-you-can eat buffet.
Of course knowing this does not give them the right to empty out your bulb garden in the name of a tasty winter snack. There are quite a few things you can do to help deter a hungry squirrel or chipmunk.
One recommended method is to use bloodmeal in the bulb hole and over the bulb bed. They thought is that the smell of the bloodmeal (which is made with real blood) will scare the animals off. Unfortunately this method can backfire as squirrels and chipmunks can develop a taste for bloodmeal.
Another method that is frequently used is to use cayenne pepper in the bulb hole and around the bulb bed. This method does work better than the bloodmeal, but is only a short term solution. The cayenne pepper will lose strength and will get washed away over a pretty short period of time and will need to be reapplied.
Another method is to cage your bulbs. You can either cage your bulbs below the ground or above the ground.
To cage your bulbs below the ground, use either strawberry baskets or make small wire baskets out of chicken wire. Dig the hole for the bulb, put your bulbs in the hole and then turn the basket upside down over the bulbs and refill the hole. This method works best when used with smaller bulbs whose foliage and stems will not easily get stuck in-between the “bars” of the cage.
For larger bulbs, you can cage your bulbs above ground by simply laying down a piece of chicken wire over your newly planted bulbs and tacking down the edges. In the spring, you will need to remember to pull up the cage so it does not interfere with the leaves of the bulbs growing beneath it.
Interplanting daffodil bulbs among your tastier bulbs is another way to discourage squirrels and chipmunks. Rodents find the taste of daffodils to be quite offensive and will not eat them. If daffodils are planted among your tulips, the squirrels and chipmunks may miss the scent of the tastier bulbs when they smell the daffodil bulbs.
There are also several products on the market which advertise themselves as Squirrel and chipmunk repellent. One such product is Get Away Squirrel Repellent, which uses Capsaicin (the chemical in hot peppers that makes them hot) and other less than tasty vegetable products to keep squirrels and chipmunks away. Other repellents may use predator urine to frighten the pests away. The store bought squirrel and chipmunk repellents have the same problems as the bloodmeal and cayenne pepper in that they will need to be reapplied almost weekly in order to remain effective.
Of course, there is always the old fashioned use of a cat. Sometimes simply having a cat on the property is enough to keep squirrels and chipmunks at bay, but if not, you can always let nature take its course.