Hope springs eternal when the gardener spies the first green sprouts of the crocus. Amongst the backdrop of drab greys and browns, the bright green almost looks like a color image superimposed onto a black and white photograph. Do you have flowering bulbs in your gardens that will greet you with their optimistic green shoots next spring? Bulbs are a breeze to plant, and don’t require your attention for most of the year. Flower bulbs are one of nature’s miracles; everything they need to bloom is contained in the bulb. Fall is the time to plant. To ensure bulbs are protected from critters, here are some tips.
Avoid Tasty Treats
There’s nothing more discouraging than to discover that chipmunks, squirrels, deer, skunks (yikes!,) dogs or cats have unearthed our bulbs. The simplest strategy is to plant bulbs they dislike: daffodils, alliums, hyacinths, gritillaria, and snowdrops.
Hide your Tracks
Disguise any clues that something tasty is in the ground. Chipmunks are territorial and squirrels are curious, and freshly dug soil invites investigation. Spreading mulch will help hide the evidence of newly planted bulbs. Recent studies have proven that adding bone meal to the planting hole in fact encourages critters. Instead, work some slow-release fertilizer into the planting hole.
Plant bulbs inside a wire or plastic cage. These are effective, but can be costly if you are planting many bulbs. A plastic cage that holds 6 bulbs costs about $7. You can build your own (link) using 2” mesh such as chicken wire. While this will deter digging, it is not full proof. Hardware cloth is another alternative, though it is much more difficult to work with.
You can purchase repellent or use crushed stone or oyster shells. The gritty texture deters digging and chewing. To use, sprinkle in the hole both under and over the bulb when planting. Feed stores usually carry crushed oyster shells. Purchased repellents only last for a specific period of time, so the crushed stones or shells is a longer- term solution. In addition to deer repellent, spreading granulated garlic or crushed pepper flakes will discourage snacking.
The month of October is the perfect time to plant spring-flowering bulbs. Just follow my instructions to ensure they are not disturbed by curious critters. For a small investment in time and money, you will be rewarded for years with cheerful pops of spring color.
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Gwen Wisniewski: Landscape and Garden Designer. Contact me. Let me help you integrate these garden inspirations. Choose the links below to find out more about my landscape design service or to make an appointment.