By DEAN FOSDICK
Bulbs are perfect, self-contained packages for gardeners. They're equipped with everything necessary to make flowers grow and bloom.
Problem is, that makes them a prize for predators, too.
"The perfect lunch box," said Leonard Perry, an extension professor with the University of Vermont. "Put them in the ground this fall and I guarantee you the plant pests will come."
But there are ways to minimize animal damage, and it begins by not underestimating your enemies. Squirrels, chipmunks, rabbits, deer, mice, voles, moles and the many other critters that feast on flower bulbs are crafty. Observant, too.
"Just the fact you're disturbing the earth is a tip-off," Perry said. "These guys are curious. They'll know something is going on and come to investigate. Once they discover the newly planted bulbs, they'll assume it's food for getting them through winter and there you go. So much for any spring flower displays."
Deer and rabbits like grazing on the tender stems as they surface in early spring. Squirrels, chipmunks, voles and moles, among others, often dine underground. That requires designing a bulb defense in layers.
Here are some proven deterrents. For best results, use them in combination:
Try planting closer to the house or giving bulb-eating animals a distant, alternative garden of their own.
Shooting and poisons are the ultimate sanctions, but both come with safety concerns: Both risk injury or damage beyond the intended target.
Trapping is yet another alternative, although many communities have rules against relocating wild critters. Check with city hall before making any moves.
Dean Fosdick grew up on a farm in southern Minnesota, gathered and propagated wild edibles during his nearly two decades in Alaska and now does his gardening from his home in New Market, Va. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org