Top 3 Ways to Keep Rodents and Garden Munchers Away from Fall Planted Flower Bulbs

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This fall, try a combination of these tips and rest easy knowing your garden is protected against rodents and other small mammals.

As humans, we enjoy the vibrant blooms of spring-flowering bulbs. Unfortunately, backyard rodents like mice, squirrels, chipmunks, voles, and groundhogs adore tasty bulbs in the fall and blossoms in the spring.

Luckily, there are easy “tricks of the trade” that can prevent munchers from ruining spring garden beds.

Create a Physical Barrier This Fall
Spring-flowering bulbs like tulips, hyacinths, crocus, and daffodils are planted in the fall when hungry rodents are looking for an easy meal. Creating a barrier when planting bulbs makes it more difficult for unwanted grazers to access the bulbs through digging. Ways to create a barrier include:

  • Chicken Wire – After planting and covering bulbs with soil, cut a piece of chicken wire or hardware cloth to the size of the planted area. Secure the wire to the ground with landscape pins or large rocks. This will deter digging animals from accessing the bulbs. Keep in mind that the wire must be removed in the spring when the bulbs begin to emerge.
  • Gravel – For gardeners that struggle with voles and groundhogs, use sharp gravel underneath and around the bulbs. Start with gravel in the bottom of the hole, then place soil immediately around the bulbs. Finish with a layer of gravel all around the bulb, creating a protective shield. As a bonus, the gravel alongside the bulbs will help with the water drainage.
  • Plant deep – Most bulbs will stand a better chance against critters if buried on the deeper side of their planting instructions. It is important to follow the directions on the package for hole depth, but if the instructions give a range, plant according to the deeper measurement. If the package does not provide a planting depth, a general rule is to plant 2-3 times the length of the bulb. Be sure to pack the soil over the bulbs to make it more difficult for digging pests to access them. Using an auger makes deep planting much easier and faster.

Deter Pests by Masking Scents
Often, rodents are attracted to newly planted bulbs because they can smell them or sense the disturbed soil. They are also attracted to the fragrant blooms in the spring. Mask these scents through strategic planting or repellents.

  • Proper mixing – This fall, try mixing bulbs favored with those distasteful to rodents. Pairing tulips and crocus – two grazer favorites – with daffodils, fritillaria, or hyacinths, that rodents are more likely to avoid can deter hungry critters from munching the bulbs and the blossoms in the spring.
  • Clean up – One of the most significant clues to hungry rodents that there are bulbs around is the disturbed soil and the debris left behind. When finished planting this fall, clean up the area and remove any papery bulb sheaths, packaging, or other debris that can carry the scent of the newly planted bulbs.
  • Repellents – After bulbs emerge in the spring, try repellents. Many all-natural repellents are available at garden centers and retailers that effectively keep small mammals away. Typically, they have an unpleasant smell to the rodents, deterring them from snacking. Online resources may suggest at-home repellents with varying degrees of efficacy, but the best choice is to look for a commercial product and apply based on the label’s instructions.

Plant Munch-Resistant Spring-Flowering Bulbs

Sometimes the easiest method is to avoid offering the temptation. There are plenty of beautiful, easy-to-grow spring-flowering bulbs avoided by garden grazers. Plus, many of these bulbs will naturalize over time and are perfect for bulb lawns. The most popular include:

  • Narcissus – Daffodils Hyacinth
  • Fritillaria meleagris – Checkered Lily
  • Fritillaria imperialis – Crown Imperial
  • Hyacinthus - Hyacinths
  • Allium – Ornamental Onion
  • Galanthus – Snowdrops
  • Scilla –Squill
  • Muscari – Grape Hyacinth
  • Chionodoxa – Glory-of-the-snow
  • Leucojum sp. – Snowflake
  • Hyacinthoides hispanica – Spanish Bluebells
  • Ipheion uniflora – Spring Star Flower
  • Eranthis hyemalis – Winter Aconite

This fall, try a combination of these tips and rest easy knowing the garden is protected against rodents and other small mammals. For gardeners who struggle with larger mammals, like deer, check out these tips on planting a deer-resistant bulb garden. Enjoy a spring bursting with bright colors and textures without worry.

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Lindsay Day
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