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  Squirrels are Eating My Spring for Supper!

Q. Mike: The squirrels are eating all of my wife's Spring bulbs.~They've turned my garden into the surface of the moon.~ We covered the garden with heavy gauge chicken wire, but the squirrels are digging sideways under it.~ Help!
---Rob Morris; Philadelphia, PA

A. Rob: There are many garden problems that can be solved. And then there are squirrels. Squirrels win. Period. In addition, it has come to our attention thanks to the brave operators of the wonderful tongue-in-check website www.deadsquirrel.com, that the little tree rats are not just garden and bird feeder thugs; they are actually evil creatures with much higher aspirations: Nothing less than world domination.

Think about it: First they chew through your phone lines so you can't call for help. Then they chew through and sever the ignition wires in your car so you can't quickly escape. Then they send a Suicide Squirrel to leap on the nearest transformer and knock out power to your entire neighborhood. And then, when you are completely helpless, alone in the dark and cold, cut off from decent society, you discover that they have also been eating your stored food. Then you hear loud noises in the attic. No, it isn't pretty, my friend!

Anyway, my Holland bulb buddies acknowledge that these furred demons can be real pests when tulips and crocus are involved. Like deer--and perhaps every other herbivore on the planet--those bulbs and their flowers are apparently tasty and delicious. (Note: this Fall, make sure you clean up all the old 'wrappers' and other outer bulb debris when you replant what they squirrels are now eating; apparently leaving these things out on the soil leads squirrels right to your buried treasure!)

But not all Spring-blooming bulbs are tasty--or even safely edible! There are MANY that deer won't normally eat, and that squirrels won't generally dig up! Here are your Spring-blooming pest-resistant options, roughly in the order that they bloom:

  • Glory of the Snow--lovely star-shaped blue flowers that often open up while there still IS white on the ground.
  • Ipheion; that's I-P-H-E-I-O-N--star-shaped flowers in colors ranging from light blue to deep violet and even pure white.
  • Scilla and Spring Squill; hardy, low-to-the-ground blue beauties that will reproduce prolifically in your garden...
  • As will super-early blooming non-tasty pretty white snowdrops!
  • Daffodils return reliably year after year, are available in a HUGE variety of colors, shapes and sizes; and are untouched by varmints...
  • Interplant them with beautiful little blue grape hyacinth--cram lots of these tiny treasures together for a great big splash of early Spring color.
  • Also early to rise, regular hyacinth comes in such a wide range of colors you could plant a patriotic Spring-blooming red, white and blue!
  • And speaking of blue, perennial favorite Spanish bluebell also makes the list.
  • Fritillaria too--these stately relatives of the lily family are virtually immune to marauding mammals, and their distinctive bell-shaped flowers look great in the garden, blooming from mid to late Spring in sizes ranging from ground-hugging to almost five feet tall.
  • Also high up on the "pest-proof" list are ornamental alliums; these wildly colorful late-Spring blooming giant puffballs are actually relatives of garlic, so nasty creatures leave them alone.

But, of course, that doesn't help you THIS year. Since the long-tailed terrorists are trying to pull up your (normally effective) carpet of chicken wire, your options are:

  1. Tell your [bad word] neighbors to stop feeding those tree rats the peanuts they're likely burying in your garden! Foolish feeding neighbors are often the reason squirrels dig up garden beds.
  2. Spray deer repellant on the area they're digging in; many gardeners report that it deters squirrels as well.
  3. Put up a squirrel-proof bird feeder that says "Guaranteed squirrel proof!" on the side. (Yes, they can read. We believe they can also read maps.) They can't resist the challenge and will be distracted from the bulbs.
  4. Sprinkle LOTS and LOTS of cayenne (hot pepper) powder all over the ground overtop your bulbs.
  5. Get one of those motion-activated sprinklers and point it towards the bulbs; when the tree rats break the beam, they'll get soaked with cold water.
  6. Buy a Jack Russell terrier. They LIVE for such gainful employment.

DO NOT use mothballs as repellants; they don't keep varmints away, but the extremely nasty little balls of toxic waste will give YOU kidney failure. Don't try and poison the squirrels either; they know better and you'll simply end up killing wildlife and your (ineffectual if you have any) cats.

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