How to Deter Squirrels from Eating Your Fall Bulbs

by Suzanne DeJohn

squirrels-eating-bulbs

Pesky, hungry squirrels love devouring your garden, bulbs and all! Read on for our best tips in keeping them away from your favorite plants.

Although their antics are fun to watch, squirrels can be a real nuisance when they dig up your newly planted bulbs. The simplest way to prevent problems is to plant bulbs they don't like to eat. Here are some of the bulbs found to be distasteful to squirrels:

  1. 'Barrett Browning' Small Cupped Daffodil, Narcissus 'Barrett Browning'

    The Barrett Browning Small Cupped Daffodil is named for poet Elizabeth Barret Browning, who penned the famous line “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.” True to it...

    Learn More
    Barrett Browning Small Cupped Daffodil Small Cupped Daffodil Narcissus 'Barrett Browning'
    As low as $11.99 Sale $11.39
    Per Bag of 8
    The Barrett Browning Small Cupped Daffodil is named for poet Elizabeth Barret Browning, who penned the famous line “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.” True to its namesake, this cultivar has been a beloved favorite since its introduction in 1945. Blooming in mid-spring, it is an early season delight with broad, crisp white petals contrast a frilled tangerine-orange cup. Winner of the Wister Award for outstanding garden daffodils from the American Daffodil Society. (Narcissus)
  2. Large Cupped Daffodil Bulbs Ice Follies, Narcissus

    This large-cupped daffodil beauty brings elegance to the spring garden with strong, white petals and a ruffled, yellow center. Make sure to plant extra for gorgeous spring bouquets! ...

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    Ice Follies Large Cupped Daffodil Large Cupped Daffodil Ice Follies Narcissus Ice Follies
    $10.65 Sale $7.99
    Per Bag of 8
    This large-cupped daffodil beauty brings elegance to the spring garden with strong, white petals and a ruffled, yellow center. Make sure to plant extra for gorgeous spring bouquets! (Narcissus)
  3. White Double Daffodil Bulbs Cheerfulness, Narcissus, Double Flowering Daffodils

    Cheerfulness is the classic, fragrant multi-flowering double that started it all. Like a sweet smelling gardenia.(Narcissus)...

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    Cheerfulness Double Daffodil Double Flowering Daffodil Cheerfulness Narcissus Cheerfulness
    $11.99 Sale $8.99
    Per Bag of 8
    Cheerfulness is the classic, fragrant multi-flowering double that started it all. Like a sweet smelling gardenia.(Narcissus)
  4. Orange and Yellow Miniature Daffodil Bulbs Jetfire, Narcissus cyclamineus, Daffodil

    This dwarf daffodil has deep yellow petals and a corona that ranges from orange to red, creating floral fireworks when it blooms. (Narcissus cyclamineus)...

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    Jetfire Miniature Daffodil Daffodil Jetfire Narcissus cyclamineus Jetfire
    $9.99 Sale $9.49
    Per Bag of 8
    This dwarf daffodil has deep yellow petals and a corona that ranges from orange to red, creating floral fireworks when it blooms. (Narcissus cyclamineus)

Plant tulips and crocus, on the other hand, and you're putting out the equivalent of catnip for your cat (or chocolate for me). That doesn't mean you can't enjoy these beauties, it just means you have to outsmart the squirrels. There are two ways to approach this: place a barrier between the bulbs and the squirrels, or use a deterrent — something the squirrels avoid.

Squirrel and Rodent Repellents

There are a number of repellent sprays on the market that may help deter squirrels, with mixed reviews on how effective they are. You may need to reapply them frequently, especially after a rain.

Avoid sprinkling ground hot pepper around planting beds. The powder can get into the eyes of animals and cause them excruciating pain.

If you want to try hot pepper, the Humane Society recommends using a hot pepper wax spray, which adheres to plants and is less likely to get into animals' eyes. And avoid using mothballs; they're toxic when ingested and may add unnecessary toxins to your soil.

Tips for Deterring Squirrels with Repellents:
  • Spray (or sprinkle) deterrents early in the season, before your garden plants are even available to munch on. This can help to prevent your garden from becoming a favorite spot.
  • Alternate between different types of repellents, so that rodents don't become used to your tricks. Keep them guessing!
  • Be more mindful of applying repellents after long winters or dry spells, when food sources are scarce. This type of weather encourages competition between all kinds of garden critters in their search for food, and you may notice more activity than you have seen in the past.

Squirrel Proof Barriers

Some gardeners go so far as to dig out the entire planting bed, line it with chicken wire, plant the bulbs and then wrap the chicken wire up the sides and over the top of the bed. The squirrels can't dig through the wire mesh but the bulbs can easily grow through the holes.

squirrel proof garden bed

Hardware cloth lines the bottom of this raised bed, and is folded and secured up the outside edges. Unlike chicken wire, hardware cloth has much tighter openings that smaller rodents can't squeeze through! You can find it at home improvement stores in 10 and 25 ft' coils. Chicken wire, however, is the smarter choice for covering your plantings, as it will allow your bulbs to sprout and emerge through the holes.

Squirrels are particularly attracted to newly planted bulbs — when the diggin' is easy! Covering the planting area for the first month or two after planting may be enough to let the soil settle and trick the squirrels. You can cover it with anything squirrels can't dig through but rain can permeate, like chicken wire, hardware cloth or window screens. Planting bulbs later in the fall, after the squirrels have done most of their food cacheing, may prevent some loss of bulbs, too.

Other Squirrel and Rodent Garden Proofing Tips

Instead of planting a solid bed of tulips and crocus, you can try interplanting with some of the bulbs mentioned above that are usually avoided by squirrels. That may offer some measure of protection.

squirrel-garden-pests

Ideally, you want squirrels to make their meals away from the garden. This may require some trickiness on your part!

  • Keep bird feeders away from the garden, or make an effort to clean fallen seed up off teh ground regularly. You can always use the old "if you can't beat them, join them" attitude and set up a special squirrel feeding station. By offering the squirrels a ready supply of easy-to-access food, you might keep them from digging.
  • Keep the area mowed and free from rock and wood piles, which offer the perfect habitat. Tidy up after planting, too. Don't leave bulb debris (like the papery "tunics" that fall off tulip bulbs) around the planting area, because it acts like a breadcrumb trail to the bulbs.
  • Trees, clotheslines, and other structures near the garden can offer squirrels a sense of comfort and protection when maneuvering through the area. If possible, limit these 'jungle gym'-type networks close to your planting beds.
  • The regualr presence of a cat or dog is a powerful way to deter squirrels!

Hopefully, these techniques will help you foil foraging squirrels this fall, so you can enjoy colorful blooms next spring.

  1. 'Barrett Browning' Small Cupped Daffodil, Narcissus 'Barrett Browning'

    The Barrett Browning Small Cupped Daffodil is named for poet Elizabeth Barret Browning, who penned the famous line “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.” True to it...

    Learn More
    Barrett Browning Small Cupped Daffodil Small Cupped Daffodil Narcissus 'Barrett Browning'
    As low as $11.99 Sale $11.39
    Per Bag of 8
    The Barrett Browning Small Cupped Daffodil is named for poet Elizabeth Barret Browning, who penned the famous line “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.” True to its namesake, this cultivar has been a beloved favorite since its introduction in 1945. Blooming in mid-spring, it is an early season delight with broad, crisp white petals contrast a frilled tangerine-orange cup. Winner of the Wister Award for outstanding garden daffodils from the American Daffodil Society. (Narcissus)
  2. Red Hunter Tulip or Wisley Tulip, Tulipa linifolia (Batalinii Group) 'Red Hunter'

    Red Hunter Tulip, also called Wisley Tulip, features brilliant red flowers around a black center. Starting Tulip season with a pop of color and blooming longer than most species tuli...

    Learn More
    Red Hunter Tulip Red Hunter Tulip or Wisley Tulip Tulipa linifolia (Batalinii Group) 'Red Hunter'
    As low as $13.99 Sale $13.29
    Per Bag of 15
    Red Hunter Tulip, also called Wisley Tulip, features brilliant red flowers around a black center. Starting Tulip season with a pop of color and blooming longer than most species tulips, its mid-to-late spring flowers are surrounded by narrow, upright, silver-green leaves. Plant at the front of the garden or in containers, where the scarlet flowers and attractive foliage will catch your eye. Winner of the RHS Award of Garden of Merit. (Tulipa linifolia Batalinii Group)
  3. Woodstock Hyacinth, Hyacinthus orientalis 'Woodstock'

    With deep plum blooms with a rich fragrance, Woodstock Hyacinth is a gorgeous addition to the spring garden. The warm purple blossoms will complement bright yellow daffodils and pair...

    Learn More
    Woodstock Hyacinth Woodstock Hyacinth Hyacinthus orientalis 'Woodstock'
    As low as $11.99 Sale $11.39
    Per Bag of 6
    With deep plum blooms with a rich fragrance, Woodstock Hyacinth is a gorgeous addition to the spring garden. The warm purple blossoms will complement bright yellow daffodils and pair nicely with jewel-toned tulips. Early-to-mid-spring blooms are known for attracting bees with plentiful nectar. Plant in the front of the garden or in containers to enjoy the sight and scent of Woodstock Hyacinth. (Hyacinth orientalis)
  4. Wild Woodland Tulip, Wild Tulip, or Florentine Tulip, Tulipa sylvestris

    Wild Woodland Tulip is an heirloom Wildflower Tulip, or Botanical Tulip, that has been cultivated for hundreds of years. With luminous yellow flowers atop burgundy stems, this tulip ...

    Learn More
    Wild Woodland Tulip Woodland Tulip, Wild Tulip, or Florentine Tulip Tulipa sylvestris
    As low as $11.99 Sale $11.39
    Per Bag of 15
    Wild Woodland Tulip is an heirloom Wildflower Tulip, or Botanical Tulip, that has been cultivated for hundreds of years. With luminous yellow flowers atop burgundy stems, this tulip will light up the mid to late spring garden and delight with a sweet lemony fragrance. Vigorous, long-lived, and relatively tall for a Species Tulip, Wild Woodland Tulips are a great choice for naturalizing in grassy areas. (Tulipa sylvestris)
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