The Squirrels got my Tulips Anyway!!

macthayer(z9a NV)May 10, 2008

I just HAD to share. I don't plant tulips out here in the country because the squirrels will get them. I've tried everything, from burying crushed shells over the tulips, to planting them under chicken fencing, to using moth balls -- nothing has worked. So I gave up on having OUTDOOR tulips. This year I had some very lovely INDOOR tulips, which I enjoyed very much. I decided to put them in the greenhouse after they bloomed to wait for the foliage to die back. I should also add that my greenhouse has those "automatic windows" that open at warm temperatures and close back up when it gets cold. Anyway, there they were on the floor of my greenhouse one day. The next day, they were all gone! The pot was ripped apart and every single bulb was gone! Those darn squirrels got in through (I'm guessing) the ground level window that opened on that warm day and just helped themselves to a feast! I will never buy tulips again! MacThayer

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newbie_in_nj(6b E/Central NJ)

I shouldn't laugh but the squirrels are one of the most persistent species I've ever seen. They make me laugh when I watch them but only because this is my first year gardening and I haven't experienced any of their possible attacks on my plantings as of yet. They stare at our bird feeders all the time trying to figure out how to get around guards, covers and anything else we put up to foil their snack attacks. Maybe they didn't go after the tulips I planted at my father's and got to bloom for the first time in 20 years because they have plenty of cracked corn and bread from what I ground feed the birds as well as leftover sunflower seeds when I refill feeders in the morning.

I planted tulips in bulb cages after spraying them with Repels All and wrapping each bulb in fine steel wool. Once I saw green poking out of the ground I sprayed them with same repellant almost daily which was overkill but was determined to keep these tulips. Our problem is more from deer, rabbits, moles, chipmunks and groundhogs eating everything and anything. I even did the "spray and steel wool wrap" deal with all other bulbs to keep chipmunks and moles from getting them...just in case.

I warned the lady across the street when I saw her planting tulips around her mailbox that she should protect bulbs and then greenery when they sprouted but she didn't listen. Last week she asked me why our tulips bloomed and hers didn't. Gave her litany of things I tried and suggested she try again come fall.

I'd LOVE to have a greenhouse but after reading about your crafty squirrels I know it's no panacea for protecting things!

Sorry about your tulips but don't give up. If you're not too bummed try a little patch with different protection either outside or in the greenhouse for next year. They're just so worth it. Mind you, I probably wouldn't be so encouraging had one of the many "tulip predators" we have destroyed mine before or after they bloomed...LOL.

    Bookmark   May 11, 2008 at 7:27AM
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macthayer(z9a NV)

Sorry. I didn't mean to sound negative. No doubt next year, the "tulip bug" will bite me and I'll just have to have more -- to bloom INDOORS. I know when I've been beaten outdoors. I suppose I could try again, but on the other hand, I have thriving, beautiful gardens that aren't being eaten by critters (most of the time anyway, and I can repair the damage they do), and for that I am grateful. If I can do that while still living in the country, among all sorts of critters: squirrels, chipmunks, possums, raccoons, groundhogs, gophers, rabbits, badgers, coyotes, wolves, deer -- plus all of the birds! I have my own "gaggle" of turkeys, plus lots of pheasants, and all those beautiful songbirds. Right now I have a "deranged" robin who has been trying to get into our house for the past several days. He (or she) keeps flying up and hitting the window, but that doesn't stop him! He keeps at it, over and over! I finally moved a screen in front of the window so he'd stop thinking he could get in there! But I love it here. And if it "costs" me a few tulip bulbs once in a while, well, that's just the price you pay for living in paradise. MacThayer

    Bookmark   May 11, 2008 at 12:34PM
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The chicken wire worked for me, and I planted them fairly deep. I did have to go out this spring and cut some free where a few were stuck. I saw a spot where a squirrel tried to dig, but evidently wasn't successful. I think I'll take it up when the foliage dies back. It's hard to weed with it there, may or may not lay it down again for the winter.

I don't live in the country but sure have a squirrel and chipmunk problem here.

I hope you figure out something. Maybe you need wider chicken wire. Also cattle fencing might work or the narrower gauge fencing stuff with more room for the tulips to poke through.

I may get some plastic forks and put them around.

    Bookmark   May 11, 2008 at 12:36PM
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newbie_in_nj(6b E/Central NJ)

MacThayer, you didn't sound negative. The very familiar "squirrel frustration" just hit home.

Over on the bird forum some people dislike them but they're entertaining to me but that's only because I don't use all types of seed for ground feeding. They can have the cracked corn and other things I put on ground but the sunflower seed was too expensive a diet for them. One little guy knows his "name" and does back flips when I yell at him and we have a couple young ones that are adorably playful.

Again, I won't be so cavalier if they attack something like my new Butterfly Garden. I'm ready to fricasse the rabbit who already had his way with the Lupine foliage in there.

I grew up in a mountainous area before a ton of residential housing moved there. It was a glorious childhood spending many, many days without a care in the world wandering the woods and thinking Jack in the Pulpits were a wondrous but everyday plant. They're supposed to be but have been extinguished in so many places by construction. They go for hefty prices from mail order places. Unfortunately, I wouldn't let a child roam woods around here these days.

Sounds like you live in a beautiful location and can feel myself in those carefree days wandering the woods when I read your description of it.

You're own turkey gaggle...a nearby farm has a gaggle. They stand in the middle of a busy county road and stop traffic dead without a care for people honking horns like mad. I have gotten out of the car to shoo geese and ducks back to the safety of the reservoir on either side of this road much to the embarassment of family in the car. Other clueless drivers were honking and yelling at me to plow right on through. Did they really think I was going to knowingly hit them? Poor things were running around like, well, chickens without their heads...LOL.

Enjoy your tulips next'll succumb to the bug. I planted them because my father always planted them for my late Mom...including the obligatory potted Hyacinth for Easter which were transplanted. Once I saw them bloom this year I knew I'd have them every year as long as I have my father's place to plant them.

Hard to beat mother nature for true beauty.

Sorry for the ramble but you struck a nostalgic chord. :)

    Bookmark   May 12, 2008 at 7:19AM
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newbie, your story was interesting. It's a curious thing, but if you name a squirrel, they seem to respond to it after a short while, not the more transient ones, of course. I've not made friends with any the last couple of years, but had 3 I considered pets, Flag, Goldie, and Clipper. Goldie and Clipper got killed by cars, but they all would come right up to the front door and take peanuts out of my hand, so cute. I wished Flag would knock on the door, and soon after he/she started jumping on the screen to get my attention. It makes me sad that I lure them to cross the street for food, then some get killed, no win situation.

I did quit giving them the stiped sunflower seeds and cut back on the bird mix because I found out it is toxic to plants nearby so I'm waiting for it to leach out of the soil. I'll get them some cracked corn instead, thanks for the reminder. If you give the chipmunks seeds or the squirrels nuts, they will try to find a place to bury them. Otherwise, they just seem to eat all the other they can on the spot, maybe that's not entirely true with chipmunks.

I just finished cutting chicken wire covers for several of my planters. Last year my soil is so dry when it really warms up, I planted some perennial gypsophilia in the ground in some potting soil covered with vermiculite and put a soda bottle w/cap off over it to keep it moist so I wouldn't have to mist several times a day (it resents transplanting, although sometimes you can get away with it). That worked great until they sprouted, grew a little, and I took them off. I've got 2 or three that are established now, but lost more than that from the digging. It's the loosened soil they go for. Constant battle with those guys.

I won't put out steel wool or anything that could endanger them by getting caught in their paws, there was a discussion somewhere on that last year.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2008 at 4:11PM
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macthayer(z9a NV)

Hi All Again. Newbie, your stories really brought back memories of my childhood as well, only I lived in northern lower Michigan. That was before I-75 was built and the only way to get there was a 2-lane road, so basically you didn't go unless you lived there or were visiting someone who lived there. It was a wonderful childhood. Like you, the woods were my playground. My mother would send us out the door, sometimes with lunches packed, and we wouldn't come home until suppertime. We explored the woods, climbed trees, swam in the river, went to a place we called "The Enchanted Forest" (it was actually a bit of a swamp, but it had that "enchanted" feel to a bunch of kids). We hardly ever watched TV, didn't even have one until I was 5, and even then, we could only get 3 stations. We did family things. Our parents read to us, we played games -- monopoly and cards were our favorites. And for the card games, we played Euchre, Bridge, "Hand and Foot" -- I was quite the card shark, even as a teenager! In fact, I can recall many, many evenings, as a teenager, sitting around playing cards (and thus talking) with my parents and siblings. I wonder how many families have done that lately? I wonder if you could even drag today's kids away from their computers or phones long enough to play cards. We couldn't talk long on the phone. We had a party line (remember those?) -- 3 families shared the same line. As a teenager, I had a 5 minute limit to my phone calls, and the phone was in the living room, so it wasn't private. But it didn't matter, because my parents knew everything I did anyway. What a loss of a way of life. I'm sure that today, parents do not allow their children to run around in those woods unsupervised (I wouldn't!)

I do resist the urge to make "buddies" out of the squirrels. My father has done so, (he's 83) and I have photos of him giving squirrels whole peanuts - they take it right out his hand! And they never bother his garden, so maybe he's on to something! But Dad doesn't have all of the critters I have -- just the squirrels. If I tried to feed my outdoor neighbors, where would I start or stop?

I do remember, at the last house we were in (suburb), I had a vegetable garden. I had tried tulips there too, but they just kept disappearing. Then one day, as I was working in the vegetable garden, I looked up in surprise to see a red tulip blooming right in front of me! Little critters had transplanted for me! So I just enjoyed it there.

I try very hard to have a "live and let live" attitude here. I don't like harming animals. I do carry a gun with me on my walks around the property, but that is only because I have once been attacked by a rabid raccoon (which I did have to kill - it was him or me and my dog), and I've been confronted by a badger. Fortunately in that case, I was able to scare him off rather than hurt him. (I grew up with guns, and can handle them expertly -- actually enjoy shooting -- but not hunting. I haven't done any hunting since I was a teenager.) We have trapped 5 raccoons using Have-a-Heart traps. They were living too close to the house and causing all kinds of damage. They are now living in a Forest Preserve about 20 miles from here (although getting them there and letting them loose is a story all it's own!)

As for my gardens, I will continue to plant what most critters don't like, and when I put in my vegetable garden (I'm putting in the structure for it this year) I'm putting up adequate fencing to keep the critters out -- which means going below ground AND covering the top. But better that than poisons or traps or any other harmful thing. We have enough Hawks, Owls and other predators here to handle keeping the critters under control. They don't need any help from me. I guess you could say I'm a pacifist at heart, and will fight only if cornered.

Sorry for the long post. Best Regards to all of you and your gardens. MacThayer

    Bookmark   May 14, 2008 at 12:47PM
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I live with woods & tons of Squirrels I fight with. They watch me plant my bulbs then remove them all when I go into the house. Now I use a 5 gallon container filled with water. I have about 5 of these I use. I sit the buckets on top of the planting holes & leave them there for a good week. I think the soil then get hard & by then the squirrels forget where I have planted. They never bother the new Tulip bulbs I plant now. I know it sounds odd but this does work for me.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2008 at 1:30PM
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That's a good idea about the buckets. I may try that as I'm tired of wrestling with chicken wire, and it makes it harder to weed where I haven't mulched. Someone off the web said if squirrels wanted the bulbs, they would just burrow under the chicken wire.

Yesterday I saw out the window this squirrel digging in my front flower bed. By the time it had taken three mouthfuls of something, I went out to see, and it had torn off my coreopsis leaves. Maybe there was something buried there, but I swear it looked like it was eating some salad lol. I went out and sprayed it with Liquid Fence.

I've got a whole bag of unsalted roasted peanuts but I'm afraid to put them out for fear they will just bury them in fresh dirt somewhere. I've got striped sunflower seeds going to waste because I read on here in some other forum they poison the ground where the shells pile up, and I piled up a bunch over the years, hope most of it has leached out by now. I'll put them on the back driveway. Now why didn't I think of that before?

    Bookmark   May 22, 2008 at 10:21PM
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Try 'planting' dog poop in your for me. :) Course the poop has to be replenished after a while, as the rain washes it away. It also leaves weed seeds in its wake, but that's easier to deal with then having those buggers ripping up/destroying your garden.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2008 at 7:23PM
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ofionnachta(z6 WNJ)

That deranged robin you mentioned was attacking the other robin, the one he saw in your window. Put up a white curtain, or tape a piece of white paper to the inside of the window for a few days, so he won't see his reflection in your window.

Two years ago we spent weeks pitying a poor female cardinal, who spent days flying at our neighbor's garage window -- Bonk! on her beak every time. Apparently it is the ladies' job to attack interloping females, and the gents go after other males.

We have 4 cats who spend a fair amount of time outside---I don't see much digging by squirrels in my garden beds. It's not that the cats go after the squirrels with purpose; I think the squirrels don't want to turn their backs on them. I have a lot of trouble with voles & moles though.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2008 at 8:18PM
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