As most gardeners learn, sooner or later: one person’s flower fantasy is just a free feast to some furry fiend. Animal pest problems occur in all seasons of the garden, but fall and spring are peak periods for plunder. Luckily, these seasons, and fall in particular, are also the best times for beleaguered gardeners to mount a defense against foraging four-legged gourmands such as deer, squirrels, rabbits, voles, moles and other assorted animal pests.
★ In fall, a good garden cleanup tops the list of animal deterrents. After the fall bulb planting, remove planting debris to rob squirrels of scent clues. (It is scent, after all, that guides them to their hidden stashes -- and to yours! They’re not relying on such memory cues as "three hops from the big tree on the left.")
★ Also consider mulch. Mulch is useful to help retain soil moisture and maintain more constant cool soil temperatures. Apply mulch after the weather turns cold. To mulch too soon only satisfies small creatures, who find earth-warmed mulch a great cozy place for winter tunneling and nesting.
Pest Resistant Bulbs
Garden pests such as deer and squirrels are a real problem in many areas of the country. Despite centuries of land development, the deer population in the U.S. is far greater now than when the Pilgrims landed. For gardeners in areas where such pests are voracious, the big question is: what won’t those animals eat? In the fall, gardeners gear up to plant spring-blooming bulbs. Some of the most popular bulbs, such as tulips and crocuses, are considered treats by animal pests. While others, such as daffodils and alliums, are generally shunned because of their bitter taste. Of course, if deer are truly starving, they’ll eat just about anything, including the bark of trees! But planting bulbs that pests don’t prefer will greatly improve a garden’s overall survivability in problem areas.
Following is a “Quick List of Pest-Resistant Bulbs” from the Netherlands Flower Bulb Information Center in Danby, Vermont. All are ranked high on beauty and low on pest-appeal.