If you have as many squirrels in your yard as I have in mine, Ciscoe Morris, Seattle Times garden writer, has some interesting–if not amusing–advice, in addition to some information about cover crops.
It’s prime time to plant tulips and other spring blooming bulbs, but if squirrels frequent your garden, you are undoubtedly aware of how difficult it is to keep those varmints from digging up and eating the bulbs. In the past I often recommended planting the bulbs surrounded by chicken wire or hardware cloth. Now there’s a new way to protect bulbs that is much easier and just as effective.
Dig the hole and plant the bulb as you normally would, but instead of caging it, cover the bulb with poultry grit, which is made up of crushed granite, shale, or oyster shells, and is available at feed stores and some hardware stores. The squirrels don’t like trying to dig through the sharp grit and quickly give up.
Unfortunately, if the squirrels do what they did at my house and exact revenge by eating the flower buds right when they emerge from the soil, there are only two effective control methods. Either plant one of the many types of spring blooming bulbs that squirrels won’t eat such as Chionodoxa, snowdrops, Daffodils hyacinth and Fritillaria, or adopt a wiener dog to patrol your garden.
Manure never smelled so good!
Improve production in your vegetable garden by sowing a fall cover crop, commonly referred to as ‘green manure’ before mid-October. Fall cover crops usually consist of legumes such as winter peas, fava beans, clovers or vetches. They germinate and grow quickly enough to form a protective ground cover before winter freezes set in, yet not so fast as to harm late season, or overwintering vegetable crops.
Cover crops protect and improve the soil in several ways. The thick foliage prevents pounding winter rains from compacting the soil surface and leaching out nutrients, while choking out winter and late spring weeds. At the same time it forms an aggressive root system that breaks up and aerates hard soil.
Most important, especially when sowed with an inoculant (available at nurseries) members of the pea family used as a cover crop host special fungus that collect nutrients and make them available for vegetable-crop growth. In spring, simply turn the cover crop into the soil. If you are going to sow a fall cover crop, don’t delay. Seeds germinate best when soil temperatures are in the 50 to 60 degree range.
Ciscoe Morris: firstname.lastname@example.org; host of “Gardening with Ciscoe”