A Gardening Year

The adventures and misadventures of an heirloom gardener

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Never Assume

I’ve been battling squirrels since I moved into this house in 1995. It’s ironic because my last house had many trees in the yard, but few squirrels whereas this house has only one tree, but an abundance of squirrels. Voracious squirrels. Bulb-digging, seed-eating, plant-chewing squirrels.

Animal-lover and organic gardener that I am, I have tried to discourage the squirrels from using my gardens as an all-you-can-eat buffet without harming either them or the environment. The most effective method for me has been to use leaves to cover areas where I have planted bulbs in the fall. The theory is that squirrels are attracted by freshly dug earth and the leaves mask the scent of the disturbed soil.

That still left me with the problem of preventing predation of my seeds in the spring. This past fall, I experimented with sprinkling hot pepper over areas where I had planted bulbs. It was a stupendous success. I’ve been looking forward to trying this same method when I plant seeds in the spring. In the meantime, I thought that I could relax and not have to worry about squirrels looting my gardens over the winter.

I found this this morning. The first question that popped into my head was how did they know where to dig? I planted these bulbs in December. There is no freshly dug soil. Perhaps an enterprising squirrel was just digging around and happened onto a bulb and so continued in the same area hoping to find more?

Or could there be a more sinister explanation involving lookouts, careful noting of locations, then waiting for rain to wash away all trace of pepper culminating in a night of frenzied digging to replenish empty larders?


At 6:58 AM, Blogger Tina said...

It would be your second suspiscion. Those friggin tree rats are schemers. I think the only way you're really going to stop the buggers is to put chicken wire over where your bulbs are (or trap 'em).
I can commiserate with you - we live next to a freaking forest, but where do they hang out? - in my yard, eating everything! They aren't even afraid of the dog anymore, since they realized she can't run up the tree, they simply tease her for fun.

At 5:14 PM, Blogger Kerri said...

You sure have a hard time beating those crafty critters. I hope they leave some for you to enjoy. We rarely see them because of the barn cats but we've had a little red squirrel at the feeders lately. I hope he sticks to corn and sunflower seeds and leaves the bulbs alone.
Lucky you though to have snowdrops blooming. Ours are still buried under snow and ice.

At 8:01 PM, Blogger Carol said...

Those squirrels are smarter than we think, aren't they?

At 10:53 PM, Blogger heirloomgardener said...

Living in nearby Morris County, I too have more squirrels than I can count. Here's what I do: (i) put wire mesh around particularly enticing buls like crocuses and lilies, (ii) soak tulip bulbs in garlic and hot pepper sauce before I plant them, and (iii) plant a very high quantity of bulbs--more than they could possibly eat.


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