Bulbs under attack

by Pippa Greenwood

For a few years my bulbs have suffered attack from both rabbits and squirrels.

Daffodil bulbsFor a few years my bulbs have suffered attack from both rabbits and squirrels. I've seen rabbits sitting on pots, their rear ends squashing the winter-flowering pansies, their front ends crushing emerging bulb shoots, long before they have chance to flower.

But last spring, thanks to the vigilance of our newly-acquired cat, the tulip bulbs did actually flower. The display was gorgeous. Old habits die hard, though, and this year I placed plastic trays over two low-level planters that were planted with tulip bulbs. Better to err on the side of caution.

Before the recent snow, when the weather was milder, I removed the trays from the pots. I did this to prevent emerging growth being squashed, and to stop shoots becoming etiolated as a result of low light levels. This optimism on my part was rewarded with devastation. Squirrels and rabbits weren't the culprits this time, but mice. They blitzed a few shoots, left a few 'deposits' and departed.

The mice apparently escaped the attentions of both of the cats (we now have a second, from the local rescue centre). Neither cat has been out much recently, which might account for their apparent indolence. Perhaps they need retraining. It seems odd that they're both fascinated by the radio-controlled rat that arrived at Christmas, yet seem indifferent to real rodents.

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Gardeners' World Web User 13/02/2009 at 10:57

a friend swears by soaking the bulbs in paraffin, while someone at the allotment says chili or tabasco sauce deters unwanted wildlife... never tried any of them myself.

Gardeners' World Web User 13/02/2009 at 12:37

The old trick of using a small domed cage from chicken mesh or smaller would help to deter the hungry pests and allow the bulbs to grow through them. If the rodents are then still eating the leaves and flower stalks then you will need to make wire cylinders instead but the foliage won't hide them. Usually it's the bulbs themselves that are eaten and a sheet of wire netting covered over with soil can be effective. It's probably field mice doing the mischief in the pots and cute little fellows they are too, much sweeter than house mice. Regarding the useless cats, they need keeping indoors to avoid upsetting neighbours with their unsavoury toiletry habits so train them to use the kid's computer game outfit you may have.........a virtual mouse hunt perhaps. ;-) KE

Gardeners' World Web User 13/02/2009 at 13:12

My problem is not with squirrels and mice, but our cat! She just loves the soft, pliable texture of the compost in the pots, and decides this is the perfect place to dig. I have been using the wire racks from an old fridge, propped up between two taller pots, to prevent this. The emerging shoots grow quite happily until the bulbs have grown large enough to deter her from digging.

Gardeners' World Web User 13/02/2009 at 16:34

I've been waging a losing battle with rabbits. They've even been wrecking plants that they're not supposed to find palatable. After 4 years of trying all sorts of barriers and 'dissuaders' (chilli flakes, pepper, mothballs, dog etc) I've gone for the ultimate deterrent and have been picking them off with an airgun. The buzzards and foxes have been appreciative of the addition to their diets and some plants are actually now managing to grow above ground level.

Gardeners' World Web User 13/02/2009 at 17:50

Last year squirrels ate most of my bulbs leaving the green tops... last November I got a small dog who became friendly with next ddor's cat who comes in to the garden to "play". I have now noticed ,that my bulbs appear to be intact obviously as a previous reader has pointed out about the prescence of the cat.... so far so good.....

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