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Beware of rodents - protect your bulbs!

Many people who haven’t done much – or indeed any - gardening before, think that growing flowers from bulbs is a relatively simple process. You just buy the bulb, plant it in the ground, and hey presto! The job is done. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately if you, like us, enjoy spending time in the garden), it isn’t that simple. There are lots of different things you need to consider when planting and growing bulbs. One of those things is rodents.

If you have planted bulbs and then find that they don’t grow, there could be several reasons why. It could be that the bulbs were too small to flower, because they were cheaper, poor quality bulbs. It could be that the bulbs were planted too early when the soil was too warm, and thus the bulbs were effectively ‘cooked’. It might even be that the bulbs grew fine the first year they were planted, but didn’t grow again afterwards, which can happen when you remove the leaves too early. Or it could be, quite simply, that they have been eaten by rodents.

Rodents can have a big impact on bulbs, in particular snowdrop bulbs, fritillaria bulbs and crocus bulbs. These bulbs are effectively the favourite meal of creatures like squirrels, mice and even deer, who will come and take the bulbs and use them as a food source. How do they know they are there? Two ways – firstly, they can smell them, so will scent them out and dig them up, and secondly, if there is freshly dug ground, they know that it is freshly dug for a reason, and so dig down to find them. Even here at Boston Bulbs we have a battle on our hands each year with our crocuses, as the mice come from the river banks. So, what can be done about it?

Well, if you have a problem with rodents then you need to protect your bulbs if possible. What action you can take depends on the pest. So, if deer are getting into your garden and eating your bulbs, you need to stop them getting in by installing a tall fence. If you do this, make sure the fence goes about a foot underground as well, to stop animals from digging under.

Plant your bulbs deep to minimise the chance of rodents smelling them and digging them up, and try to remove any evidence of having planted the bulbs as much as possible (such as by removing any bulb husks, unused bulbs, debris, soil piles etc.)

Wire mesh (such as chicken wire) is a great way to protect your bulbs. You can either place it on top of your bulbs and stake it down, or make a cage of it around the bulbs.

Sharp gravel or grit can act as a deterrent to digging pests, as many of them don’t like digging through the sharp stones, and it can still make your garden look attractive. 

Alternatively, give the rodents something else to eat, such as by hanging bird feeders with peanuts in the tree, in the hope that this distracts them from eating your bulbs. Unfortunately, this can be a double-edged sword, as whilst it works for some gardeners, others have found it has the effect of attracting more rodents to the garden.

If these methods fail, try using pest repellents to deter rodents from your garden. There are many repellents available in the shops, but there are often organic, natural solutions to pests as well depending on the type of rodent. Examples of repellents include blood meal, and hair from humans, dogs or cats (as it spreads around the smell of predators). Human hair can easily be obtained from your local barber our hairdresser, and you can get dog hair from groomers. Human or animal urine is another way to spread the smell of predators – you can either pour some human urine onto the garden, or spread some used cat litter around. Chili pepper in powder, flake or liquid form poured or sprinkled over the bulb area can also act as an effective deterrent.   

If none of this works then you may need to consider traps or bait to kill the rodents, but some people don’t like going down that route. Finally, if all else fails, then you may have to consider planting bulbs that rodents don’t like eating, but there are lots of options you can try before you get to that stage.

If you need more help with planting or looking after your bulbs, then please contact us. Boston Bulbs Wholesale is a privately owned business with over 35 years experience of importing only the finest quality horticultural products throughout Europe and from farmers and growers all over the UK. Whether you’re a landscaper, nursery, local authority, wholesaler, retailer, private business or individual gardener, just give us a call on 01775 769 333 or visit for help with flower bulbs, grass seed and more.

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