The age-old question, how can I stop squirrels from eating my bulbs, lies at the root of the neverending battle between gardeners and the critters. There are ways to deter them though. Here are our tips.
How to Stop Squirrels from Digging Up Flower Bulbs
Squirrels and chipmunks avoid daffodils, which are poisonous in all parts. You can try sticking to just daffs or planting them among more tasty bulbs, like tulips and crocus, in hopes the rodents will avoid the planting entirely.
There are other ways to protect bulbs. When you plant them, enclose them in a bulb cage before planting them. These are available from bulb retailers and the mail-order company Gardener’s Supply. You can also make your own cages by folding pieces of wire mesh into a sort of basket, placing this in the planting hole and then placing the bulbs into it. Put another piece of mesh over the top, then backfill with soil. Choose mesh in a gauge large enough for the bulb’s stem and foliage to pass through. (For instance, tulips and hyacinth require a larger gauge than crocus or scilla.) You can also line the entire hole with crushed gravel or chicken grit. Squirrels, chipmunks and voles will not burrow through this layer; the sharp edges sting their paws.
Repellents containing capsaicin work well against squirrels and chipmunks. Storebought products include Deer Off II Deer & Squirrel Repellent and Hot Pepper Wax Animal Repellent. Or make a homemade version using a few teaspoons of Tabasco or other hot-pepper sauce and a few drops of dish detergent (for stickiness) in a spray bottle of water. Rain will wash the spray away, so you will need to reapply it. Some gardeners just shake cayenne pepper directly into the hole and on the ground around it. This too will eventually wash away.
This excerpt originally appeared in Horticulture September/October 2011 issue. Join thousands of gardeners just like yourself and get smart gardening advice from experts delivered right to your home—Subscribe to Horticulture.