Head gardener tips: tulip pest control

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2019 tulip pest control test bed

As the Tulips at Hever Castle reach their peak blooming period (expected to be 19 – 25 April), Head Gardener Neil Miller shares his best tulip pest control tips.

Anyone who grows tulips bulbs in large quantities will tell you – squirrels love them. And while we love squirrels, we love our tulips more, so we are keen to employ the very best ways to ‘deter’ them from the tulip bed.

Every year we use and reuse our chicken wire to cover the troughs and pots planted up with tulip bulbs. Chicken wire really does seem to protect the bulbs and new shoots.

Squirrels are bright animals so following planting, another tulip pest control trick is to disguise the newly dug soil by sprinkling mulch on top.

Squirrels don’t like certain bulbs, so you could plant your tulips layered with other bulbs that squirrels don’t have a taste for such as: hyacinth bulbs, muscari, camassia, snowflakes and snowdrops.

Back in 2019 we put out a call on social media to find the best ‘pest control’ measures tulip growers employed when planting their bulbs. We were inundated with wild and wacky solutions, so, we set about building some trial beds to see which method worked the best.

We sprayed some bulbs with quinine water, then we coated some in soap, we created an area covered in chicken wire and soil, we sowed paraffin pellets planted deep within the holes as we planted the tulips, we planted cotton wool balls soaked in peppermint essential oil, cotton wool balls soaked in apple cider vinegar, planted hot chilli pepper flakes, ground black pepper and ground garlic powder.

Our trial beds generated a lot of interest, luckily not from the squirrels! We found that the garlic solution and hot chilli flakes were the best. Surprisingly, the black pepper trial didn’t work well, so I think it’s probably safe to say that squirrels actually like their tulip bulbs sprinkled in pepper!

If you want to take something away from our 2019 trial, you could try adding some ground garlic powder to the soil when you plant your tulips this autumn.

If you enjoyed these tips on tulip pest control and are keen to learn more about tulips, then why not read about tulip husbandry

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