Depending on where you live, you might have noticed a lot more squirrels this time of year. And if you’re like most gardeners, you hate that, particularly if you’re planting bulbs.
I am not like most gardeners, even when I’m planting bulbs. For whatever reason–even when they’re chewing up my shrubbery–as they deer do–or digging up my bulbs, as the squirrels will occasionally do, I have a healthy respect for wildlife. I empathize. I always think that if I had to survive, buck naked outdoors in the winter, I wouldn’t last 3 days. Squirrels, remember, are mammals like we are. Birds are cold-blooded but squirrels are warm-blooded like we are so they feel the cold (as do deer).
I remember, as far back as college when I would notice squirrels running willy-nilly all over the road in front of the car, wondering what that was about. It almost seemed as if they wanted to be killed.
Well, of course I now know a lot more about animal behavior and realize that is a behavior designed to confuse a predator. The problem is, it doesn’t work so well with those big hulking “predators” known as combustion engines. But even when I was down in South Carolina, on a plantation where there were alligators in their Audubon swamp, the signs said not to try to outrun the ‘gators because you couldn’t. If you had to make evasive manuevers, dart in a zigzag fashion–sort of like a squirrel–and climb a tree.
There’s a whole web site devoted to squirrels including how to keep them out of your home called Squirrels.org. It’s got lots of fun facts as well as helpful information about “squirrel-proofing,” since squirrels are just another type of rodent, and, after all, many of us have experience with other types of rodents (mice, chipmunks) and know how persistent they can be and how difficult it can be to keep them away from things and out of places were they are not wanted.
And it’s a virtual treasure trove of links about all things squirrel.
But the most helpful tip I’ll leave you with from my years of gardening is this: if you’re planting (either spring or fall) and you don’t want your new plantings to be disturbed by squirrels in particular, but also to a lesser extent chipmunks, you need to tamp down on the ground around or on top of the planting area well after planting. Think about this. When you first put a shovel or trowel in the ground to plant, that ground is compacted from a season of rain (or snow).
You dig it up and make it nice and fluffy for your new bulbs/seeds/annuals/whatever. Squirrel comes along with a nut to bury. Where is he going to dig? In the hard, compacted ground, or in the stuff you just fluffed up?
And, if you’re planting bulbs, once he digs his hole for the nut, if he finds an edible bulb at the bottom, so much the better! Otherwise, he’ll just toss your little seedling aside, bury the nut and move on. That’s why, in the spring, you find your little annual transplants lying on top of the ground. The squirrel is using your holes for his nuts. Pretty clever–even if it means more work for you.
Now, armed with this knowledge, go tamp down on top of your newly planted bulbs so the squirrels don’t know you’ve been there!