Keep the critters from flower bulbs

I’ve spent hours planting spring-flowering bulbs in the garden, only to find them dug up and gone soon after being put in the ground. There are a lot of chipmunks in my yard. I’m sure they were watching me plant the bulbs and drooling over their meal possibilities.

Terry Messmer is an Extension wildlife specialist at Utah State University. He says chipmunks, gophers, mice, and deer are the typical thieves that root out your flower bulbs and dine on them. Squirrels don’t necessarily eat bulbs, but they’ll dig them up out of curiosity.

Messmer says critters find your bulbs in two ways: sight, and smell.

"All the animals have very good senses of smell. If there’s some certain or odor or fragrance attached to the bulb that’s been planted, that’ll be curiosity," says Messmer. "But the other part that’s influencing them is the fact that the soil in that area has been disturbed for some reason, and thus it’s easier to access."

For that reason, Messmer recommends spreading mulch, leaves, or something like that over the area to make it less obvious.

The most effective way to be sure your flowers come up in the spring is to put a barrier between the bulbs and the four-footed thieves. And the best one is chicken wire.

"What you’re talking about is laying it flat on the ground, and large enough that it covers the area that you intend to protect, fastening it down at the corners, and then covering it with some of the available litter so that it kind of blends into the surroundings," he says. "The chicken wire we’re talking about has got the 1” or ¾” mesh, so that’s wide enough you can have it in place and the bulbs will still emerge through that."

There are plenty of wildlife repellents, and they might work at first. But the critters often get so used to it that they eventually just turn their noses up and dig away.

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