Protecting Bulbs from Critters

VoleTry this advice to keep voles and other critters from eating your flower bulbs:

Use mesh with half-inch holes to make a “bulb cage.” Place the bulbs inside the cage and plant it in the ground. Roots and stems will fit through the mesh but rodents won’t be able to squeeze through or chew access holes. For a mass planting, line the bottom and sides of the hole with mesh, leaving a bit sticking up above the surface (you can place mulch over it).

Place mesh over bulb plantings to protect from squirrels and chipmunks, which dig.

Line bulb holes with a coarse material such as gravel or PermaTill. Mice and voles do not enjoy burrowing through its sharp texture.

Plant deer- and rodent-resistant bulbs. Certain types of bulbs contain lycorine, a bitter-tasting poisonous substance that repels animals. Daffodils, snowflakes and snowdrops contain lycorine. If you don’t want to limit yourself, you can try planting these repellant bulbs among your tasty tulips and crocus in hopes that rodents will steer clear. Other bulbs that deer and rodents generally avoid, though they aren’t poisonous, include squill, camassia, glory-of-the-snow, fritillaries and allium.

Plan your bulb planting with the Bulb Garden Wheel, a fun and effective tool for less than $8.

Check out the CobraHead, a versatile tool that’s great for planting bulbs.

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6 thoughts on “Protecting Bulbs from Critters

  1. Years ago, a local gardener suggested I make a tea with cayenne pepper, or even sprinkle it into the dirt around my bulbs. This has served me well. It’s also send cat’s away that think about using spots in my garden for a potty area. Discount store cayenne pepper works just fine.

  2. I’ve tried this and half-inch hardware cloth is not effective. You have to use quarter-inch. Voles, like mice, can get thru very tiny holes. Sinking plastic pots into the ground doesn’t work unless you cover the holes with hardware cloth too.

    I love to grow tulips for cutting, but between the deer and the voles I nearly gave up. My solution is to grow them in whiskey barrels to protect them from attack from below, and bird netting over wire hoops to foil the big varmints. I put annuals in the barrels for the summer.

  3. Hardware cloth, which is galvanized, works well. You can get it from Home Depot or hardware stores in rolls. I use Aviator Snips to cut it – they are worth their weight in gold!!!! Treat yourself right! Chicken wire is not thin enough mesh and will rust out very quickly – don’t bother.

  4. Tips sound good, but what do you do to prevent critters from eating the flower heads, once they sprout. This past spring the deer ate my daffodil heads before they had a chance to open up. So much for deer resistant. I had no problems with dafs before. However, they always yanked my tulip heads, so I gave up on them.

    • For tulips planted against the outside wall of my house, after they break ground in early spring, I use chicken wire (1 inch mesh, I guess) leaning at an angle toward the wall from the outside edge of the planting, fixed with a number of bamboo plant-stakes threaded through the mesh and put into the ground. It might be unsightly but it does not show much from the distance. Besides, my choices were limited and I did not want to give up on the tulips. It’s cheap and easy fix. Good luck!

  5. I live in a community of 366 Townhomes, and I am the past editor of our newsletter, The Silver Bullet, in which I published a similar ‘recipe’ for planting bulbs in protective cages! Glad to see it was sound advice. Thinking ‘outside the soil’ is a good way to keep use of pesticides to a minimum. Kit Smith

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