If you want to know how to stop squirrels from digging up bulbs, there’s a high chance that you’ve already experienced the heartache of losing bulbs to these nutty visitors.
After all, the last thing you want is for these animals to derail your garden ideas. But if you want to get started on planting bulbs for spring, it’s important to understand that you can’t just expect squirrels to leave your bulbs alone without any human intervention. To them, bulbs are an all-you-can-eat buffet of goodness - which means that you need to step in.
But while it’s fairly hard to get squirrels out of your loft, you’ll be happy to know that it’s much easier to stop squirrels from digging up your bulbs. And when you’ve done everything you can to keep these pesky animals at bay, you can instead focus on enjoying your blooming springtime garden next year.
How to stop squirrels digging up bulbs
‘As many bulbs such as crocuses and tulips are planted in autumn, they’re a target for squirrels who dig them up to eat when other food sources are in short supply,’ explains Jonathan Nicholls, pest control expert at HomeHow.co.uk. That’s why it’s important that you make these bulbs as undesirable as possible. And this is how you can do it.
1. Feed the squirrels
It may sound a little counterintuitive, but feeding the squirrels that make their way into your garden is one of the best ways to keep them at bay. The idea is that, by feeding them nuts, seeds, and even fresh fruits and veggies, they won’t need to go in search of other food (i.e. your bulbs).
To ensure that the squirrels in your garden are taking advantage of this alternative food you have on offer, opt for a specific squirrel feeder.
2. Plant further down
To stop squirrels digging up your bulbs, you need to stop giving them the opportunity. However, many novice gardeners make a common gardening mistake when planting their bulbs, and they don’t plant them deep enough.
When they’re closer to the surface, squirrels have even more opportunity to sniff out these bulbs and then dig them out. So, try and make sure that you’re planting them around 6-8 inches deep, no matter whether you’re planting straight into the ground or into pots.
3. Cover them up
Although squirrels want to eat your bulbs, they don’t want to put too much effort into doing so. If they find that they can’t easily get to them, they’ll simply give up and move on to another food source. Because of this, covering them up is a great way to stop squirrels from digging up your bulbs.
‘I recommend covering your bulbs with the likes of chicken wire or netting to stop a squirrel from digging into the bulb's soil,’ explains Steve Chilton, garden expert at LeisureBench. ‘The bulb will still be able to grow up and through the wire, but any squirrels won't be able to reach into the bulb and dig it up. To make sure that no animals ever get caught up in your covering, you have to ensure that it's really tight over your bulbs and doesn't pose a threat.’
If you don’t have any spare chicken wire lying around, you could also try scattering crushed stones or crushed shells on top of the soil. Although it’s unlikely to be as effective as chicken wire, it could keep the squirrels away.
4. Use natural deterrents
If you don’t want squirrels anywhere near your bulbs, it might be a good idea to focus on the things that squirrels absolutely hate. And as they’re sensitive to some smells, strong-smelling substances can come in extremely handy.
For example, squirrels hate the smell of coffee grounds. So, next time you empty out your coffee machine, don’t just throw away your old grounds - spread them around your bulbs instead! Not only will this keep the squirrels at bay, but it will have the added bonus of adding vital nitrogen to the soil, making your flowers healthier than ever.
As well as coffee grounds, squirrels are also known to hate the smell of cinnamon, black pepper, and garlic powder. Just remember that all of these things will be washed away every time it rains, however.
5. Choose different bulbs
You’d be forgiven for thinking that squirrels love the taste of all bulbs. But, in reality, there are only a few bulbs that they can eat. On their list of favourites are tulip bulbs and crocuses, but that’s normally where their menu ends - either because they hate the smell of other bulbs or because they’re extremely toxic.
In fact, squirrels normally avoid daffodil bulbs and allium bulbs purely on the basis that they hate the stench that comes from them. But when it comes to hyacinths, snowdrops, and Muscari, squirrels will actively steer clear of them because they are deadly to them.
Because of this, one of the best ways to stop squirrels from digging up your bulbs is to choose different bulbs. If you can, avoid using tulips and crocuses altogether. But if you can’t bear to get rid of them, try and plant a mixture of squirrel-loving bulbs and squirrel-hating bulbs within close proximity of each other.
6. Avoid smelly fertilisers
When trying to grow bulbs for spring, it can be easy to add a fertiliser or nutrient-rich mulch to the soil to encourage healthy plants and growth. Of course, this is great for your flowers… but only if the bulbs survive until spring.
If you want to stop squirrels from digging up your precious bulbs, try to avoid using smelly fertilisers on or around your bulbs. That’s because squirrels are extremely attracted to the likes of blood meal, bone meal, and fish emulsion.
Basically, anything that smells delicious and natural is like a 5-star meal for squirrels, so opt for a soil topper that doesn’t have a strong odour instead. Alternatively, don’t use one at all.
7. Delay planting
Although most spring flower bulbs are planted between September and November, this is normally when squirrels are most active. During this time, they often gather food before the winter cold kicks in, allowing them to keep a stash to feast on during these colder months.
Because of this, it might work in your favour to delay planting your bulbs. Squirrels have normally finished their gathering by early November, and many varieties of bulbs are happy to wait until the end of the year to be planted. In fact, bulb planting is one of the best jobs to do in the garden in November.
Just remember to research your bulbs and their needs before you delay planting, as you don’t want to miss the boat for springtime blooms.
How do you protect bulbs in pots from squirrels?
If you can, try and cover your pots with chicken wire. Although this won’t affect the growth of your blooms, it will remove any chance of squirrels digging into the pot and digging up your bulbs. However, that’s not the only way to protect bulbs in pots from squirrels.
You could also sprinkle the likes of cayenne pepper, garlic powder, and coffee grounds into the pots to keep squirrels at bay, as these animals hate the strong scent.
It’s also a good idea to try and plant your bulbs as deep as possible. Most squirrels can only dig around 2 inches into the ground, meaning anything planted deeper than that should be safe.
What is digging up my bulbs at night UK?
Although many animals like to dig up bulbs, squirrels are almost always the main culprits. Bulbs are delicious treats for these animals, and squirrels can dig up bulbs in a matter of minutes.
Squirrels tend to dig up bulbs at night when the coast is clear, and they can dig them up without any interruptions. And bulb planting season is also a perfect time for squirrels to commit their crimes. That’s because squirrels tend to start gathering extra food during bulb planting season to keep their stomachs full during the winter months when food is harder to come by.
So good night and good luck! Here's hoping you're able to keep the squirrels off your carefully planted bulbs.
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Lauren Bradbury is a freelance writer and major homes enthusiast. She graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in English and Creative Writing from the University of Chichester in 2016, before dipping her toe into the world of content writing. After years of agency work, writing everything from real-life stories to holiday round-ups, she decided to take the plunge and become a full-time freelancer in the online magazine world. Since then, she has become a regular contributor for Real Homes and Ideal Home, and become even more obsessed with everything interior and garden related. As a result, she’s in the process of transforming her old Victorian terraced house into an eclectic and modern home that hits visitors with personality as soon as they walk through the door.
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