Squirrel Mischief?

Leawood, KS(Zone 5b)

Someone (or someTHING) evidently didn't approve of my plans for bulbs this spring. In the last few days I've found tulips sprouting in locations I would never have considered planting. At first, I thought it was probably due to my use of compost from my compost pile. Since I throw any and all yard waste in my pile, I figured some seedling bulbs had made it through the compost process and been scattered with the nice, rich compost.

Seeing the blooms, however, I'm convinced these errant bulbs are the top-size bulbs I planted in my beds last fall that have been dug up and re-planted by some varmint in my garden. There are blank areas in a bed of 1,000 tulips I planted in a display bed and the pots of tulips I forced to go in the urns in my garden have no bulbs at all! Instead, I have tulips coming up in my hosta/fern bed and my iris/daylily bed is full of tulips. There is even a single tulip coming up in the middle of a patch of new grass where I filled a sink hole in my lawn!

The natural suspect is squirrels, since there are dozens of them in the oak trees in my yard. They chew on the columns on my front porch, chew of thousands of small branches from the trees and seem to be a pesky group as a whole. For some reason, my cats have given up on chasing them out of the yard.

If not the squirrels, then whom should I blame? Anyone else have this problem? Any other suggestions for blame (or better yet, a cure for the problem)?

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North Shore of L. I., NY(Zone 6b)

The tulip blooming in the middle of the lawn is too funny. And the garden in the third picture looks good even if it isn't exactly how you planned. I don't know how they got there, I guess the squirrel mischeif theory is as good as any.

Leawood, KS(Zone 5b)

Well the tulip in the lawn opened in the warm sunshine today - it was evidently one of the bulbs I planted in pots to force for my urns. Several of the pots ere raided and completely empty.

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North Shore of L. I., NY(Zone 6b)

Darn squirrels!

Elgin, IL(Zone 5a)

Leawood,

Oh yes! Squirrels! So dumb! When they find freshly turned earth they figure some other squirrel just buried something there. So they dig to see. Then if they find something, they go hide it somewhere else.

I never had to deal with squirrels until recently. I was moving peonies and lilies and put them in pots outdoors on a patio for a few weeks. They would dig in the pots and leave quite a mess. Then, because they had dug, they kept coming back to see what other squirrel had buried.

Sometimes they turned the tables. Last year they left 2 painted Easter eggs in one of my peony pots. Thanks, guys.

I've got you covered on this one. I found out what they really dislike. Freshly ground black pepper. Not the kind that you buy ground. And not cayenne pepper. (I'll never forget the time I heard a strange noise and looked out the window to see a squirrel with cayenne pepper all over its face as it sneezed and continued to chew on a lily.) The kind you apply from a pepper grinder. It's black, and disappears. And inexpensive. And available in any supermarket.

When you plant pots, and you are finished, bring out your pepper grinder and give it a few turns. Repeat every few days. It will keep the little devils out of your pots. Works like a charm for me.

Donna

Leawood, KS(Zone 5b)

Thanks for the tip, Donna! I'll give it a try. I'm very discouraged at the results from my tulips this year. I need to do something to keep them at bay next year!

Elgin, IL(Zone 5a)

In my yard the rabbits would dig them up and eat them. I would spray the tulips, but you have too many to spray. You will notice that they didn't touch your daffodils, and that's because they are poisonous.

Little beasties will leave you alone until they figure out that there is a reliable food supply. I grew lilies for several years with no problems until the voles figured out that there was a winter supply in my yard. I went from a loss of one or two to a loss of 50! First I was putting in expandable slate, and then I discovered daffs.

I think that the squirrels have figured out that they can rely upon you to provide them with a winter food supply. But I'll bet your losses came shortly after you planted them, when the ground was freshly overturned. I grind pepper over any newly turned earth, since they will dig, as they started to do, at any fresh earth, such as the base of a rose I transplanted. They will dig in the earth where I plant peonies. The common denominator is freshly turned earth, and a lack of daffs, which are poisonous. I started putting miniature daffs around tulips, which protected them. But that defeats the purpose for you - you want a large bed of tulips.

I know that you have a ton of tulips in the ground, but if you can find a way to protect them for perhaps a week after you have planted them, you should have much better results. But broadcasting pepper? Perhaps not practical.

The other alternative? Put daffodils around the perimeter of the entire bed - something you like, something attractive. That may be the most economical alternative.

Duxbury, MA(Zone 7a)

Another trick I read somewhere, and have had good luck with, is to plant a clove of garlic with each grouping of tulips. Maybe one small clove (not a whole head) per 5 tulips. This seems to work with voles and underground critters, not sure if it would have helped with squirrels. Donna's tips are good, though - Donna, if you are still reading this, I've been digging up my tulips for a couple years now and replanting in the fall after reading one of your posts and it works like a charm. I still have 10 Princess Irene tulips blooming outside right now, this is at least their 3rd year, maybe 4th, and I haven't lost one.

Elgin, IL(Zone 5a)

How sweet of you to tell me! You just made my day.

Donna

Silver Spring, MD(Zone 6b)

Donna..care to share that secret information on growing tulips and moving tulips that Cindy was talking about with the rest of us? I know I planted 90 daffs about 2 or 3 yrs. ago and I bet half of them didn't come up the next Spring..Very disappointing.

Elgin, IL(Zone 5a)

It's not really a secret!

I like to have really terrific displays of tulips. But buying new ones every year is very expensive. So after they bloom and the foliage has had a chance to ripen, I go into the garden, dig them up (no need to remove all the soil) put them in pots or pot lids (don't crowd them too much) are dying down, and let them dry. Once the soil has dried (and you can do this over weeks) I get a big lawn bag to handle the detritus and cut off the foliage, brush off the soil, and put them in cheap brown paper lunch bags from the supermarket, also in the back of my garage. I don't bring them into the house because I might bring in the occasional worm. I dig them up and put them in my garage. I label the bags, but I might also put in a stick with the name on it so that I don't get confused in the fall.

In the fall, Take them out and plant them again. You can put them in as groups or do fun mixes. The tulips in the first picture are all at least five years old: Angelique, White Trumphinator, Mayfair, Mount Tacoma.

In the second photo are multiflowering Triumph tulips Weisse Berliner and Happy Family. They tend to break into single after a few years, but some stay double. These are about three years old.

Pinnochio is at least 8 years old.

Over the years, I have saved hundreds of dollars on tulips by doing this. The very best tulips for this are single lates, lily flowering, and species. These are most likely to actually multiply!

This message was edited Apr 11, 2012 6:19 AM

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North Shore of L. I., NY(Zone 6b)

That sounds great for your garden and tulip displays but so much work as you actually have to pant, then dig up to dry and store, then replant again. Soooooo much work. I never dig mine up. Of course that means they dwindle and need to be replaced.

Elgin, IL(Zone 5a)

Frankly, it's not that hard. They are easy to get out of the ground. If you don't dig them up you have dwindling tulips, which you have to dig up anyway, after watching them become ugly, and buy all new ones. I guess you don't mind spending the money.

She did, after all, ask what the steps were. I was simply laying them out. I don't find it that herculean task, and I'm not trying to persuade anyone to do it.

North Shore of L. I., NY(Zone 6b)

No, no not criticizng. I think what you do is wonderful. I guess I am just too lazy to even think about it! Your right, I do have dwindeling tulips and I that means I have to keep replanting them. Nothing to dig up, just plant new ones again.

Leawood, KS(Zone 5b)

Donna convinced me to do this several years ago and I have to say, it's really kind of invigorating. It gives me a sense of accomplishment and conservation, as well as 'control' over what my bulb beds will look like each spring (squirrels not withstanding!).

This bed of "Mrs John Scheepers" tulips in 2011 became a border of tulips this spring.

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Elgin, IL(Zone 5a)

Oh Leawood, that's magnificent! I get the same sense from it that you do. Thank you for letting me know!

North Shore of L. I., NY(Zone 6b)

I like the way you redo your tulips myself. You do a fantastic job and they always look fabulous!

Duxbury, MA(Zone 7a)

Wow, Leawood, that's a lot of tulips to dig up. I'm usually digging up a bunch of 10 here and another 10 there. Probably only dig up 30 per summer. The other good thing about it is it gives you more space to fit your annuals in!

Elgin, IL(Zone 5a)

Cindy, yes! It does leave more room for annuals.

Here is where the Happy Family and Weisse Berliner were. After I dig them up, I put in Gladiolus (love Matchpoint), push mirabilis seeds into the ground, and let the self seeded nicotiana alata and verbena bonariensis grow. Color until fall. Then the tulips go back in.

This is in late July.

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Elgin, IL(Zone 5a)

Here is another tulip bed. Same plants, with the addition of impatiens balsamina, which you can direct sow by simply pushing seeds into the surface of the soil. Again, color into the fall when you put the tulips back. The verbena b and nikkis self sow, as does some of the garden balsam each year.

And, by the way, I dig up my glads the way I do my tulips - pull them up, dry them off, treat them with some sulphur, and put them in brown paper lunch bags in the basement. They actually start sprouting there, and then I put them back in the ground.

The gladiolus still coming up in the bed is Good News, which I strongly recommend. It multiplies over time, like Matchpoint. Here is Good News in another location, so you can see how lovely it is.

My point in all this is that you can inexpensively create really wonderful displays quite inexpensively. It is clear that Leawood, in particular, has created what is in effect a magnificent display garden. These steps can cut the cost and yes, give you more control.

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Duxbury, MA(Zone 7a)

Donna, not to digress, but, where do you get your named varieties of glads?

Elgin, IL(Zone 5a)

Good News is the radiant silvery pink. Even though I dig it up it seeds, and produces bulblets that comes back well.

Matchpoint is the hot red.

I have also found Blue Skies and Plum Tart to be wonderful.

I got them from Pinetree Garden Seeds. And, if you can believe it, 10 for $3.95! Makes up for the $7.95 shipping.

Duxbury, MA(Zone 7a)

Oh, thanks, I've ordered glads from Pinetree before, I like this catalog, I order a lot of seeds from them, but the problem for me with the glads was they shipped too late in the spring, it stays cold longer in Maine than where I am in Mass, and I got a really late start on my glads that year.

Elgin, IL(Zone 5a)

I think I received an email from Brent and Becky's Bulbs earlier this week that they have a special on glads this week. 10% off. I think they are closer to you. What about them, or have you ordered from them before?

Donna

Duxbury, MA(Zone 7a)

I have ordered from them also, and liked the quality of the bulbs, I may check that out, thanks!

Elgin, IL(Zone 5a)

Get on their email list. They have specials every week.

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