The Detroit News / Homestyle / Gardening

-Nancy Szerlag-
September 09, 2011

Using animal repellent may ensure tulips bloom

It’s getting harder and harder to find spring flowering bulbs these days. It’s because wild animals’ damage has discouraged gardeners from planting them.Here are some tips from the pros to help keep critters at bay, so use these techniques and plant away.

To keep voles from chewing on spring flowering bulbs, treat them with an animal repellant before planting. Brent Heath, co-owner of Brent and Becky’s bulbs,, says before planting, lay the bulbs on a newsprint outdoors, spray them with a liquid repellant and let it dry.

The animal repellant I use is Plantskydd, which comes in both a liquid and granular form. After planting, I sprinkle granular Plantskydd on the surface of the soil to further deter squirrels and chipmunks from foraging in the freshly dug soil.

Mark Hodesh, owner of Downtown Home and Garden in Ann Arbor, says Plantskydd has given his tulip sales new life. He also recommends covering planting beds with a layer of chicken wire. When the ground freezes it can be removed.

Bloomfield Hills gardener Julia Hofley says she saves her spring flowering tulips from deer by spraying the leaves with Plantskydd as they emerge, again a couple of weeks later when they unfurl and again when the buds form.Tall, fragrant Oriental lily bulbs, also planted in the fall, are treated the same way, says Hofley, who is an avid collector. Spraying the buds with PlantSkydd allowed her to enjoy a glorious summer showing of flowers on stems that rose to 5 feet and higher.

Another way to enjoy spring flowering tulips is to pot them up in fall and store them in a protected area, such as an unheated garage, potting shed or on the north side of the house. I store my potted bulbs along the foundation of my house, covering them with an old tarp. For insurance, after planting, I sprinkle granular Plantskydd on the soil surface of the pots. In March, after the snow melts, I move the pots into the garden. When the bulbs poke their noses up I start spraying.

To extend the blooming season select early, mid and late blooming tulips and be sure to put them in separate pots.

Downtown Home and Garden in Ann Arbor, English Gardens stores and Van Attas in Haslett all carry large collections of spring flowering bulbs.

Nancy Szerlag is a master gardener and Metro Detroit freelance writer. Her column appears Fridays in Homestyle / The Detroit News.





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