THISWEEK TACKLING SQUIRRELS
How do you stop squirrels eating bulbs?
Traditionally, wire netting with half-inch gaps is recommended; either peg it down on the surface of the soil, or use it to make inverted baskets under which you plant the bulbs and which you then peg down. However, these methods take time.
Other well-known repellents include chicken manure, cayenne pepper and moth balls. Take care with manure; it is strong stuff and will scorch a lawn if overapplied. Buy cayenne pepper from a market in a big bag, and sprinkle some on the soil after planting. After heavy rain, you may need to reapply. Alternatively, dust the bulb before planting. Mothballs, which some readers say are very effective, should be crushed and put on/in the compost.
What about protecting pots?
Make the chicken-wire cover invisible – cut out a disc to fit snugly just under the compost and cover it with compost or a gravel mulch.
Which bulbs do squirrels like best?
Squirrels adore crocus and tulips. Alliums and daffodils are rarely eaten. Often the squirrels may be foraging for other food or burying nuts when the bulbs are discovered, so the bulbs are just an added bonus. They also adore sweetcorn, and, sadly, magnolia and camellia buds.
What about traps?
One week I wrote an article saying that as my garden was isolated and some distance from a nearby wood, we did not have any squirrels. The next week one arrived, presumably along a hedgerow. To stop him damaging my trees, I invested in a Kania 2000 trap (www. ppcsupplies.co.uk, 01386 552545) which is fixed high up in a tree.
This trap kills them instantly, but Natural England says it must be used with an appropriate tunnel to stop birds getting caught, and cannot be used in a red squirrel area.
You need to get squirrels familiar with the trap first by baiting it, unset, with peanut butter. Traps that capture squirrels alive arguably cause them more stress; you then have to kill the squirrel humanely, as it is illegal to release them elsewhere.
Any other strategies?
If you plant your bulbs early, before the cold, lean period arrives, the bulbs have more of a chance to develop roots and get established, which makes them less likely targets.
Garden pest: Squirrels love tulips and crocus bulbs, but hate cayenne paper (left)