The Q&A Archives: Critters in Bulb Garden

Question: There are many round holes about 1-2 inches across in my garden where tulip bulbs were planted fall 1996. This spring few tulip leaves are up and these look rather frail. Are moles eating the bulbs?

Answer: Moles don't usually eat plant matter, focussing instead on insects. Rodents such as mice and voles use their tunnels like a subway, and they do eat roots and bulbs. Moles tunnels are usually marked by raised soil and a soil pile around the exit hole. If there isn't a heap like this near the hole, then your furry friend is probably a mouse, chipmunk or vole. If your tulips don't perform well this spring, dig them up after the leaves fade, and see if something has been feeding on the bulbs. Some gardeners must plant their bulbs in little cages made of hardware cloth (wire mesh) to keep critters from munching on them. Gardener's Supply Co. (; ph# 800/863-1700) sells a product called Bulb Insurance, which is made of crushed oyster shell. You mix the stuff with the planting soil around your bulbs, and if rodents burrow near, the sharp shards make it tough digging - and they give up for easier eats elsewhere. Hope this helps!

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