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Squirrels or Sabotage?

Posted by fieldofflowers 3 or 4a (My Page) on
Tue, Oct 15, 13 at 19:24

First off I live in a major city. I have two garden spaces along a high rise type building. One in the front (facing North) and another a square raised bed in the south. The south area is blocked off by a huge wall. Only residents have access to there (or people they invite). This is also a major feeding station to all wildlife. People leave stuff out for the squirrels, rabbits, and mice all the time.

I've been having non stop problems with the back area ever since I started. I'd find plants broken off, up-rooted and chewed up. I did my research and tried planting rodent resistant and poisonous plants. All to no avail.

Anyways these are some plants I've seen shredded up, eaten down to the ground, dug up, and just ruined:

- Caladium: Bulbs dug up, shredded, eaten, missing. New shoots and leaves eaten off, missing, or left on the ground, stems gone.

- Coleus - in the front, high trafficked area usually fine. In the back, chewed up, parts missing, broken. To see animal damage on these was a first for me. I've grown these in other areas in the past w/o problem.

- Purple Striped Jew - chewed up, missing after a few days. This was an absolute first for me. I've always seen them spit up and rejected for the rest of the season in past gardens. But this one it kept up the whole season.

- Wishbone type flowers - everything all chopped down to the ground. Clean cut. I suspected Rabbits.

- Petunias - eaten te same way. Either to the ground or the flowers continuously picked off.

- sweet peas - cut at the base and left to wither.
- Moonflower - same as the sweet peas
- Marigolds - eaten, disbudded.

- Elephant Ear: Large plant. The leaves grew giant. Shredded. Large slashes along the veins. Holes and gouge marks. Scratches all over the leaf surfaces. Some looked like fingernails or a knife. But upon inspection the scratches were a bit close together for a human hand. Looked hideous. I got lots of complaints about how horrible the plants looked.

- Purple Coneflower: Chopped down to the ground, flower just left. Looked like rabbit damage? Would they eat en entire full sized stalk leaving no trace beside the flower head? I had to keep the plant caged in a huge rolled up wire mesh. As soon as that went down in October, the very night. The flowers and stems chopped on the ground.

- Now Daffodils, grape hyacinth, deer resistant tulips, dwarf iris, siberian squall. Found bulbs missing, up-rooted -shredded to pieces underneath a bench. Looks like squirrels ate them. I thought these are all poisonous bulbs. Anyways I dug up the few remaining I could find. I'll put them in the fridge and do what the southerners do, force them to bloom artificially and plant them that way.

I'm just devastated. Over all. What a waste of money and I am still not sure what is going on. It all looks animal damage, but doesn't make sense. I can't find enough reference of animals eating the plants I set out. I haven't been able to catch any humans in the act, so I don't know. Are there ways to outsmart these people and plant bulbs when they aren't around? Or is it the squirrels after all? Can they become immune to the poisons such plants produce? Can they even grow to seek out such plants? I noticed more damage to these than supposedly other more squirrel food type plants.

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: Squirrels or Sabotage?

I feel your pain. Squirrels, rabbits and groundhogs would do that kind of damage in my garden. If this spot is a "major feeding station to all wildlife" you'll have to devise some way of keeping critters away from plants. Maybe chicken wire cages or something like that? Looks terrible but at least plants are protected.

RE: Squirrels or Sabotage?

Arrrghh! They found the daffodils I planted in the front too now. I found a huge dug out area. Bulbs missing w/o a trace except a tiny piece of the paper wrapper.

The good news, it looks like they are starting to grow tired of the deer resistant tulips. I found those bulbs skinned, but intact, just littered on the sidewalk. They dug up but left my sole bearded iris bulb intact. I'll have to replant it.

Our local Menards had a pack of 45 standard (aka kinda plain boring) daffodil bulbs on sale for about $12-13. Out of those only 3 were bad. I am giving them all a fungicide soak and will plant them.

Hopefully by the time they eat 42 bulbs they will get sick and learn their lesson. (then maybe I can put up the fancy ones in the spring. (I'm planning to store them in a plastic bin filled with soil/mulch and store that outside until planting time.)

About cages: Nope can't do. I wish I could. There's a guy in charge of the garden committee and he hates barriers and other 'ugly' stuff. He removes the wires and tells me to not put them up again. Or at least will complain at me about it. He was pretty resentful of me keeping one up around a coneflower and told me next year that won't be allowed.

And even that person in charge of the garden did allow it,the raised bed isn't deep enough to burry any cages, let alone certain perennials. About a foot deep (or less in the middle) there are huge vinyl mats lining up the entire bed. To remove those would take a team of people, and removing everything in the bed. It is a bit too involved without having to get the apartment management involved. Historically they had a tree in the spot that died. The stump is still there. The mats are there either as a weed barrier or as a means to keep soil from sinking and disappearing.

(I will, at times when the soil is dry, try attacking sections. I already removed one of the mats and freed a small area.) It took me and one other person about 2+ hours.

RE: Squirrels or Sabotage?

Try sprinkling baby powder or talcum powder in the holes with the bulbs when you plant them. Just be certain not to inhale any of the powder as it's harmful to do so.
I have had 100% success with this method and not having anything dug up. I learned about it from an arboretum in PA.

RE: Squirrels or Sabotage?

Narcissus, hyacinths and the fall blooming colchicums are almost never eaten by animals of any type, because they are poisonous. The squirrels may dig them up, move them about or even try tasting them, but do not eat them. In my garden, the bulbs most often eaten are crocus and any type of tulip.

RE: Squirrels or Sabotage?

They shredded the first few, but so far the plain daffodils they have left alone, especially after I did the hot sauce treatment. Too bad they devoured the fancy daffodil bulbs earlier. Oh well. So far it looks like we will have some flowers even if they are the traditional yellow on yellow type.

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