The Sunday Telegraph - Sunday - - Gardening - BUNNY GUIN­NESS OUR EX­PERT AN­SWERS GARDENERS’ QUES­TIONS

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)

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