Contributed by Sharee Solow

After fall nips the summer flowers, you spend a little pile of money to hold those firm, round bulb beauties in your hands. They are the hope of spring to come as you spend hours kneeling, digging into the cold ground. Come springtime, anticipation is high, the snow melts, you look around—nothing. Perfectly spaced holes dot the area exactly where you planted your hopes. Mice, voles, and squirrels had hopes too. They were hoping you would plant food for the winter.

Now that you have learned another garden lesson, it's time to consider your options. Squirrels, groundhogs, rabbits, gophers, voles, and mice (deer too) love bulbs. So if you really want particular types, there are sacrifices to make in time, aesthetics, and selections.

  1. Some bulbs are poisonous. This is always my favorite option and one reason there are so many daffodils in the spring gardens. But, there are others that I think are underused. Try some of these: Allium, Camassia, Chionodoxa, Eranthis, Galanthus, Hyacinthoides, Muscari, and Scilla.
  2. You Shall Not Pass: Unless Gandalf is defending your garden, you will need more than a wizard's staff to block the rodents. The first defense is always a fence. This is when aesthetics come into play because you'll be laying it down flat on the ground, with a couple extra feet around the sides, and stake it down. Another fence style involves burying 1/2" wire mesh cages with your babies tucked inside if you have countless hours to make those preparations.
  3. Dig down deep: Follow directions for a change, at least three times the height of the bulb, and cover bulbs with soil not mulch. Don't empty those bags of debris or you might as well send up a flag.
  4. Repellents Some might work in your yard until it rains or the animals get used to it. And remember, what works in one yard won't necessarily work in the next. I use a pre-planting method by soaking all bulbs in Bobbex (according to their directions) for three minutes, and wait for them to dry before planting. It soaks into the bulb and lasts through winter. Of course, the new growth and bulblets will not be protected.
  5. Distraction: Mix the good tasting with the bad: tulips with nasty-tasting crown imperial (Fritillaria imperialis) for example. I also put a tulip in the same hole as my daffodils and mix crocus in with Spanish bluebells. Think of perennial combinations that will shield your bulbs from rabbits and deer after they come up. Those tulips are much less appealing in the middle of a bunch of Echinops!

Website Resources:

Maryland Extension Service

University of Missouri Extension