How to stop squirrels digging up bulbs

The pesky squirrel problem makes people want to stop planting bulbs. Those darned critters seem to have radar, and know exactly when and where you’ve planted your bulbs – then they dig them up and either eat them, or plant them in someone else’s garden. Grrrrr.

But don’t despair. I used to be one of those people, said Helen, sounding just like an Infomercial. But she, that is me, is a changed woman, since she discovered Acti-Sol pelletized hen manure.

No, really. And no one’s paying me. The big, industrial-sized bag below, I bought all by myself.

This is my fifth year using it, and I haven’t lost a single bulb to squirrel excavation. Not one. I simply plant the bulbs and then sprinkle a double handful on top of the finished planting area. Done.

Squirrels don’t have radar, or x-ray vision. What they do have is an acute sense of smell. They can detect the scent of the overturned earth – and it makes them think some other squirrel has planted something delicious there. So they dig. Products like blood meal and Acti-Sol disguise that fresh-dug earth aroma – but the latter is much longer lasting, and doesn’t wash away in the rain. Like blood meal, Acti-Sol is organic and good for the earth.

No longer afraid to plant tulips, I’m building up my spring display, each year adding bulbs in a related colour palette. Here’s 2015 (planted in 2014), in oranges and apricots.
And here’s 2016 (planted in 2015), when creams and bicolours like orange parrot tulips made the scene. For 2017, I’m adding more botanical tulips in pale yellow and various hybrids in tones of burgundy.

So you’ve solved that problem. Now what can you do about squirrels snapping off tulip heads in spring? Well, nothing really (predator urine spray works, I hear). But I’ve come to terms with that by simply planting more tulips!

Tulips don’t come up in spring unless you plant them in fall. Why not grab up the bargain bulbs now while we have some good weather left? Get yourself some hen manure pellets at the same time. Don’t poo-poo it. It works!


  1. This is such a great tip – sure beats the much more labour intensive “covering them with chicken wire” approach. I’m starting a seasonal bulb fundraiser for the kids school in the spring…what better incentive for me to get on the ball with getting more bulbs in my garden?

    But no need to get that industrial sized bag of Acti-Sol…’cause I already have one! Love the stuff and use it in all of my garden beds…next best thing to having chickens actually poop on them 🙂

    1. Glad to be of help, Margaret. Hope you have the same experience! I planted most of my 100+ bulbs two weeks ago, and the last batch on the weekend. All still good.

  2. We don’t have that brand over here, but there are plenty of other pelleted chicken manure products available to give this a whirl. Having just planted some daffodils AND also having a tub of the pellets in my shed already, this is crying out for an experiment on this side of the pond.

    Well done on taking the NaBloPoMo challenge once again 🙂

    1. Oh, excellent, VP. Please report back with your results.

      Once again, it’s my unofficial NaBloPoMo, so no one to answer to but myself. I’ve already had one minor slip-up, but I’m pressing on!

  3. What is NaBloPoMo ? Thanks for the squirrel tip. Do you think the smell of bone meal might be a deterrent ?

    1. Hi, Jessica. NaBloPoMo stands for National Blog Posting Month. It’s the poor stepsister to National Novel Writing Month, which is the challenge of writing an entire 50,000-word novel, a bit each day, over the month of November. NaBloPoMo (like NaPhoPoMo, for photography) simply challenges us to write a blog post (or post a photograph) every day in November. I can’t remember how many times I’ve done it offhand, but it’s a self-imposed challenge in my case. NaBloPoMo used to be its own thing. You’d have to officially register each post before midnight each day on their website. Then, I think, it was taken over by BlogHer, and became trickier. That’s when I stopped doing it “officially” and went my own way. So I’m running a parallel NaBloPoMo, I guess.

      In answer to your bonemeal question, I don’t think it’s stinky enough. I’ve used bone meal with my bulbs in the planting hole for many years in the past, and it never slowed a single, voracious squirrel down. Blood meal, because it smells like blood, is supposed to be one of the tricks, again which didn’t work especially well for me. Plus, it would dissolve in the first rain. Other tricks include covering the planting spot with stones or using chicken wire and are more time consuming. For example, you have to actually remember to remove the stones!

      Nothing has been as simple and effective for me as using the hen manure. There might be other suppliers, but Acti-Sol is the one I’m most familiar with. Please, anyone, chime in if you know of another brand.

  4. Didn’t work on my lawn.
    Squirrels are still digging holes and in some cases, back-filling them with the Acti-Sol pellets.
    Going back to placing expanded metal (a cousin to chicken wire) on the restoration area before all the new grass seedlings are done for.
    Anybody want to take 9 kgs. of chickie poop off my hands?

    1. Oh, no, Jay! How thickly were you spreading them? If it’s any consolation, Acti-Sol also makes a great all-purpose fertilizer. I’m very sorry to hear your nasty squirrels weren’t fooled – did you catch them in the act? I’ve had nothing but success with it at foiling those varmints in my garden.

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